Institute of Medicine, Heart Association disagree on sodium

May 16, 2013 at 12:34 AM
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PHILADELPHIA, May 16 (UPI) -- The Institute of Medicine says studies found the value of cutting salt intake to very low levels is inconclusive, but the American Heart Association disagrees.

An expert panel at the Institute of Medicine said recent studies examining links between sodium consumption and health outcomes support recommendations to lower sodium intake from the very high levels some Americans consume now -- 3,400 milligrams or more of sodium a day or the equivalent of about 1.5 teaspoons of salt.

However, Brian Strom, George S. Pepper professor of public health and preventive medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, said the committee found evidence from these studies does not support reduction in sodium intake to below 2,300 mg per day.

The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans urge most people ages 14-50 to limit their sodium intake to 2,300 mg daily. Those ages 51 or older, African-Americans and people with hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease -- groups that together make up more than 50 percent of the U.S. population -- are advised to follow an even stricter limit of 1,500 mg per day.

These recommendations are based largely on a body of research that links higher sodium intakes to certain "surrogate markers" such as high blood pressure, an established risk factor for heart disease, Strom said.

"These new studies support previous findings that reducing sodium from very high intake levels to moderate levels improves health," Strom said in a statement. "But they also suggest that lowering sodium intake too much may actually increase a person's risk of some health problems."

Nancy Brown, chief executive officer of the American Heart Association, said the report was missing a critical component -- a comprehensive review of well-established evidence which links too much sodium to high blood pressure and heart disease.

The American Heart Association has meticulously reviewed scientific research and recommends that all Americans eat no more than 1,500 mg a day of sodium. Current average sodium consumption in the United States for people age 2 and up is more than 3,400 mg a day, Brown said.

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