Moderate or average amounts of common salt (sodium) intake does not increase risk of heart attacks or stroke according to a recent international study undertaken by a team of scientists from the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences, Canada along with colleagues from 21 countries across the world.
Besides Canada, data for this research paper was collected and reviewed (from individual as well as community levels) from countries across the world including Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, China, Columbia, India, Iran, Malaysia, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sweden, Tanzania, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Zimbabwe.
Rates of Salt Consumption by Countries Across World
- This international study tracked 94,000 people, between the ages of 35 to 70 years, for an average period of eight years in communities spread across 18 countries around the world.
Data for the current article was sourced from the ongoing 'International Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE)' study conducted by the PHRI. Andrew Mente, first author of this study, a PHRI scientist and also an associate professor of the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact at McMaster University.
- The study found that China is the only country where more than 80 per cent of communities consume common salt or sodium amounting to more than five grams daily.
- Most communities from other countries showed only an average sodium consumption of 3 to 5 grams daily (equivalent to 1.5 to 2.5 teaspoons of salt).
Existing Recommendations on Salt Consumption By Leading Health Organizations
According to Andrew Mente, "The World Health Organization recommends consumption of less than 2 grams of sodium -- that's one teaspoon of salt -- a day as a preventative measure against cardiovascular disease, but there is little evidence in terms of improved health outcomes that individuals ever achieve at such a low level. He added that the American Heart Association recommends even less -- 1.5 grams of sodium a day for individuals at risk of heart disease.
Relationship Between Salt Intake and Heart Disease
- In countries such as China where the salt consumption was high (more than 5 grams daily), there was a direct relationship between salt intake and adverse heart events like stroke and heart attack
- In countries where salt intake was moderate (or 3 to 5 grams daily), there was a decreased incidence (inverse relationship) of heart attack and stroke associated with salt consumption
- All major heart related problems, including death was lower in communities and countries that consumed foods high in potassium such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, dairy foods and potatoes
Thus the findings of the study suggest that moderate amounts of salt (3-5 grams) daily may not adversely affect heart health.
Need For Community Based Measures to Reduce Salt Intake
- Currently preventive measures or strategies to reduce salt intake are individual based
- Martin O'Donnell, co-author of the report, a PHRI researcher and an associate clinical professor of medicine at McMaster suggests that intervention measures to reduce sodium intake should be aimed at communities that consume a lot of salt and should be included as part of overall measures that promote healthy diet
In conclusion, there appears to be no definitive evidence that persons who consume average amounts of salt do not need to restrict salt in their diet to reduce their risk of heart attacks or stroke. Additionally consuming a potassium rich diet can decrease heart related problems.
Courtesy: MED INDIA