Sodium reports far apart in recommendations

by Jeff Gelski
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WASHINGTON – Two reports offering conflicting advice have spiced up the debate over sodium guidelines at the beginning of 2017. One report issued in January by the Competitive Enterprise Institute questions daily sodium limits, but a study appearing on-line Jan. 10 in the BMJ argues that government strategy to reduce sodium intake could be cost-effective worldwide.

The C.E.I. report questions maximum sodium consumption guidelines, sodium’s impact on hypertension and federal attempts to regulate sodium.

Michelle Minton
Michelle Minton, a C.E.I. fellow

“When it comes to the salt in our food, regulators and health activists are wrong to push a one-size-fits-all sodium-restriction plan on everyone,” said Michelle Minton, a C.E.I. fellow and author of the report titled “Shaking up the Conventional Wisdom on Salt; What Science Really Says About Sodium and Hypertension.” “There’s no evidence that a severe cutback in sodium will lead to overall public health gains as regulators, activists and media reports often claim. In fact, it may actually hurt certain groups of people. Instead, what the science shows is the best way to help prevent or treat hypertension is healthy lifestyle choices, like a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, and recommendations tailored to each person’s unique needs.”

The contrasting study appearing in the BMJ, an international peer-reviewed journal formerly known as the British Medical Journal, examined 183 countries. It found reasons for a government “soft regulation” policy that combines targeted industry agreements, government monitoring and public education to reduce sodium intake. Based on costs and a 10% reduction in salt over 10 years, such a “soft regulation” policy in those 183 countries globally could save nearly 6 million life-years currently lost to cardiovascular disease each year at an average cost of $204 per life-year saved.

Darius Mozaffarian
Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University

“We know that excess dietary salt causes hundreds of thousands of cardiovascular deaths each year,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston and senior and corresponding author of the study. “The trillion-dollar question has been how to start to bring salt down and how much an effort would cost.”

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