Dietary guidelines for salt restriction ignores research

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Dietary salt

According to the The Salt Institute, Americans could face increased health risks by restricting sodium intake.

In a response to new US dietary federal guidelines, the group claims the recommendations ignore recent research that low salt diets could increase rates of diabetes in addition to other health risks.

The group notes U.S. dietary guidelines that recommend sodium intake of less than 2,300 mg and 1,500 mg among persons who are 51 and older, and all African American, anyone with hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease applies to half of the population.

They also say reducing salt intake per Federal guidelines issued Monday could increase obesity rates and diabetes.

The impetus behind the dietary guidelines is to lower rates of hypertension, but the Salt Institute says obesity is to blame, not dietary sodium. According to the group, the new recommendations are "drastic, simplistic and unrealistic".

“These guidelines are a classic example of ‘Ready, Fire, Aim’ by the federal food police,“ said Lori Roman, president of the Salt Institute, which represents the salt industry. “While increasing obesity and hypertension rates are health concerns we can all share, it’s simplistic and dangerous to attack salt, an essential nutrient.”


The Salt Institute cites a recent Harvard study linking low salt diets to increased insulin resistance that precedes diabetes type 2. They also speculate reducing sodium will lead to more calories consumed to satisfy an innate appetite for salt.

They group points to research published November 2010 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showing though high blood pressure has increased, salt consumption in the U.S. has not. The findings revealed salt intake is the same as it was 50 years ago.

In a commentary to Harvard study, David McCarron, a physician and adjunct professor in nutrition at the University of California, wrote, “Public policy should not try to trump human physiology. Any attempts to do so through well-intended strategies directed at the society at large, such as mandatory sodium labeling of food products and extensive educational and social marketing efforts, are not going to change an intake pattern that reflects human biology. Such efforts also carry potentially substantial risks.”

Morton Satin, vice president of science and research at the Salt Institute says, “If high blood pressure increased significantly but salt consumption did not, then it is obvious that the Dietary Guidelines regarding salt are baseless." He says......"available clinical research predicts several negative consequences across all age groups" linked to low sodium in the diet.

The Salt Institute says obesity, not salt is to blame for rising rates of high blood pressure.They say dietary guidelines for drastically reducing salt intake ignores recent research and can put Americans at risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes and would ..."make the United States the only modern society with salt consumption that low."

The Salt Institute



The negative health consequences you cite occur at sodium levels WELL BELOW what is being recommended by the USDA. I glanced at the abstract a study you cite. What you describe as a low-sodium regime might more accurately be depicted as an salt deprivation. The study found risks occurring at <20mmol/d. The new recommendations would be well above that at closer to 70mmol/d. You should reevaluate your use of the study as evidence. As to your assumption that humans have an innate taste for salty snacks and would not possibly be satisfied by lower-salt options, you once again seem to be facing evidence to the contrary. From the DGAC report: "Taste preference for sodium is neither fixed nor innate. Rather, it is a malleable trait that is influenced by dietary exposure. At birth, there is no indication that salty substances are distinguishable or preferred (Beauchamp, 1986). " "Studies have demonstrated that reducing dietary sodium intake over a time period of as little as 3 to 4 weeks can decrease preference for salty foods and increase acceptance of foods with reduced sodium content (Bertino, 1982;; Cooper and Sanger, 1984)." To put it simply, the less salt we eat, the less we care for it. This, I am sure, does not seem good for your business. Think instead of the lives saved and the extended lives (and therefore ability to purchase products) that will result. If you insist on heaping praise upon salt, please do not insult the public by trying to pass off studies of salt deprivation as evidence that current levels are beneficial.
You can tell that this study was set up for the scientists to cherry pick the hell out of it from the very beginning. All the test subjects were white, in their 40s, and had no history of cardiovascular disease or any serious medical conditions for that matter. I even read somewhere that half of the 50 that died on the low salt diet were heavy smokers anyway... something that the test neglected to disclose in the study. As for the hypothesis that a low salt diet can be deadly though, I think they're completely right. The medical field has been recognizing the danger of low salt diets for years now, and even the fitness industry realizes how bad it can be. Most fitness sites like h even have disclaimers on their front page warning about exercising while on a low salt diet...