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August 2019 (Vol. 4 Issue 6)

Salt isn’t bad for the heart—it prevents heart attacks and stroke
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

Salt isn’t bad for the heart—it prevents heart attacks and stroke image

Eating salt is bad for our heart, right? Wrong. Despite all the public health warnings, the very reverse seems to be true—salt could prevent a heart attack and stroke. Only people with high blood pressure (hypertension) need to mind their salt intake, say researchers.

People who follow a low-salt (sodium) diet could be putting their health at risk, and are increasing their chances of a heart attack or a stroke.

Although consuming less salt does reduce our blood pressure levels, the benefits are more than outweighed by the risks of heart disease, say researchers from McMaster University in Canada. A low-salt diet only “modestly” reduces blood pressure. “The key question is not whether blood pressure is lower with very low salt intake, instead it is whether it improves health”, said lead researcher Andrew Mente.

Mente and his team researched the impact of salt on the health of around 130,000 people from 49 countries. And what they discovered surprised them—because it was contrary to standard public health advice. Everyone—even including people with high blood pressure—benefits from eating an ‘average’ amount of salt a day from their food, and this equates to around 3.5 to 4 grams.

Salt protects us from heart attack, stroke and death from heart disease, as previous studies have already found. It’s only an issue for people with high blood pressure who are eating around 6 grams of salt every day, and this represents less than 10 per cent of the population.

Although public health advice is recommending salt intakes that are too low, and could be dangerous to our health, most people are eating the right amount every day, the researchers say.


References

(Source: The Lancet, 2016; doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30467-6)

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