Seems there has been a bit of confusion (understatement) about some recent studies on the effect of sodium on "health" versus "blood pressure."

According to the committee of the prestigious Institute of Medicine, "The evidence supports a positive relationship between higher levels of sodium intake and the risk for cardiovascular disease." Translation: Too much salt (sodium) results in a higher risk for diseases of the heart such as heart attacks and strokes.

And this IOM committee also supports efforts to lower blood pressure.

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So what is the ideal intake of sodium to accomplish the best health outcomes?

That's where this report gets tricky, finding "insufficient" evidence that the current recommendation of less than 2300 milligrams of sodium a day is the ideal amount to decrease our risk for heart disease ... even if it helps lower our blood pressure.

Furthermore, for African-Americans or people older than age 51 or those with diabetes or chronic kidney disease, the committee found "no evidence for benefit" for cutting sodium intake to the current recommendation of less than 1500 milligrams a day.

Here is what we do know about sodium:

Sodium is unarguably an "essential" nutrient for we humans. It controls fluid levels, nerve impulses, and muscle contractions (including the heart muscle). An "adequate intake" of sodium is between 1300 to 1500 milligrams a day for most adults. Most of us eat too much sodium (an average of 3400 milligrams a day). One teaspoon of salt contains about 2400 milligrams of sodium. Most (77 percent) of the sodium we eat is already in processed foods. A dill pickle, for example, contains 300 milligrams of sodium.

"Salt" used for seasoning - whatever the source - is sodium chloride. Blood pressure goes up when we eat excess amounts of sodium. Blood pressure goes down when we cut out extra salt from our diet.

Nine out of 10 of us will develop high blood pressure in our lifetime. High blood pressure damages the heart, blood vessels and kidneys.

And in contrast to the recent IOM conclusion, "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."

So … whether the "ideal" goal for sodium intake is less than 1500 or 2300 milligrams a day is still not absolutely proven. Yet we all agree that too much sodium elevates our blood pressure. And that high pressure of blood against arteries is a major risk for strokes and heart attacks.

I think we know what we need to do ...


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