Fries fans, rejoice. A controversial new study suggests that salt isn’t as bad as its long been believed. The research – published in the Lancet medical journal – assessed sodium and potassium excretion in over 95,000 people across 21 countries, and compared them to rates of cardiovascular disease.
They found that sodium intake was linked to cardiovascular disease only in communities like China where the mean intake was greater than five grams per day.
The World Health Organisation currently recommends no more than two grams of sodium (equivalent to five grams of salt) per day because of a link to high blood pressure which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.
According to a paper recently published in the Medical Journal of Australia, Aussie men are consuming around 10 grams of salt per day while women are taking in around seven grams.
Researchers highlight that no country has ever managed to get their population’s intake that low and they suggest pushing a strategy of salt reduction only in the communities where consumption was greater than 12 grams.
The study also suggests that very low levels of salt may actually be linked to heart attacks and deaths.
“Our study adds to growing evidence to suggest that, at moderate intake, sodium may have a beneficial role in cardiovascular health, but a potentially more harmful role when intake is very high or very low. This is the relationship we would expect for any essential nutrient and health. Our bodies need essential nutrients like sodium, but the question is how much,” lead author Prof Andrew Mente said.
But before you get out the salt shaker in celebration, a number of experts have taken issue with the study and its methodology.
“These criticisms include the use of ill participants in the study, leading to reverse causality (ie those suffering with heart disease don’t eat much food, and consequently eat less salt, but it is the illness that leads to death rather than lower salt intake), and the use of spot urine measurements,” Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London, and founder of the salt-reduction campaign Cash, told The Guardian.
So until there’s a consensus, moderation is probably still the best way to go.