Monday, May 16, 2011

Does Lowering Salt Shorten Lifespan?

Q. About 50 years ago we were told to cut way down on salt. My brother Elmer always ate a lot of salt anyway and was always more healthy than I was. Unfortunately, he was killed in an automobile collision when he was 85.

I am now 86. When I stopped restricting salt, my health improved. If salt causes some people problems, they should avoid it. It doesn't make sense for the rest of us to deprive ourselves.

A. It has been an article of faith for decades that everyone should reduce salt intake, but the data don't show that limiting sodium consumption makes a difference for otherwise healthy people.

The latest research in the Journal of the American Medical Association (May 4, 2011) reported that lower salt intake was not associated with lower blood pressure. The people who consumed the least salt had the greatest risk of death from cardiovascular complications.

As paradoxical as this seems, it is consistent with previous research. A national nutrition survey (Journal of General Internal Medicine, Sept., 2008) found that low sodium intake was linked to higher cardiovascular mortality. A recent study of people with type 1 diabetes found that those with the lowest sodium intake were most likely to die during its 10-year duration (Diabetes Care, April, 2011).