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New Study Challenges Recommended Daily Sodium Intake


A new research study casts doubts on the current recommendations for how much salt you should consume. The study is one of the largest of its kind and indicates that today’s recommended maximum daily intake may be far too low and even harmful. Over 100 000 individuals from 18 countries participated in the study. Four thousand were from west Sweden.

Two reports from the global study, published today 14 August in New England Journal of Medicine, question some established truths and recommendations regarding how much salt a person should consume for optimal health. In the study, called The Prospective Urban Rural study Epidemiology (PURE), researchers followed over 100 000 persons from 18 countries for four years. Four thousand of the participants were from Gothenburg and Skaraborg County in Sweden.

The study explored people’s intake levels of sodium and potassium and how they are related to blood pressure, mortality, heart disease and stroke.

‘This is one of the most ambitious studies ever conducted on the effects of people’s salt intake over time,’ says Annika Rosengren, professor of medicine at the University of Gothenburg and one of the researchers behind the study.

Too much dietary sodium has long been known as a serious health risk. The results of the new study show that more sodium in the diet does indeed increase a person’s blood pressure, in particular among those with a daily intake exceeding 5 grams (which corresponds to 12.5 g of table or cooking salt), those who already suffer from high blood pressure and those who are 55 years of age or older.

In Sweden, people typically consume 4-5 g of sodium per day (10-12 g of salt), whereas the Swedish National Food Agency recommends adults to limit their intake to 2.3 g of sodium per day, corresponding to 6 g, or about a teaspoon, of table salt – a level that is rarely seen in Sweden today.

However, one of the two reports from the study shows that the recommended level may be too low for good health. Although a low intake of sodium was in fact associated with a somewhat lower blood pressure, low levels of sodium in the diet can also be harmful.

The PURE study found the lowest risk of cardiovascular events and death among those who consumed moderate amounts of salt, and that the health risks increased both above and below this interval.

‘The scientific support for today’s recommendations is very weak. At the same time, however, a high sodium intake remains associated with increased risk for both high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease,‘ says Rosengren.