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Why new dietary guidelines for reducing salt intake are important

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Salt dietary guidelines

The revised US Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 for reducing salt intake are important for several reasons that highlighted by kidney experts. According to a statement from the American Society of Nephrology (ASN), reducing salt to 1500 mg a day for anyone over age 51, African-Americans, as well as people with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease (CKD) will reduce the number of patients who need kidney replacement therapy.

African Americans especially at risk from consuming salt

High salt intake is especially a threat to African Americans who are six time more likely to develop high blood pressure. Nearly 50 percent of blacks are already hypertensive.

Stuart L. Linas, MD, FASN, Chair, ASN’s Hypertension Advisory Group says the dietary guidelines ..."are important to all Americans, particularly African Americans and patients with CKD. High dietary salt worsens kidney disease in a number of ways, including causing higher blood pressure and increasing the effects of hormones, such as angiotensin, known to injure kidneys. Reducing dietary salt should reduce the number of patients requiring renal replacement therapy."

Lowering salt intake means reading food labels, eating fresh foods and cooking at home. Prepackaged and boxed foods should be avoided. Shop for fruits and vegetables in season. Frozen vegetables are inexpensive and a better option than canned. Healthy eating does not have to be costly, especially given the advice to consume fewer calories - just eating less will cut grocery bills.

Salt substitutes that contain herbs are safe for kidney patients who should avoid seasoning with added potassium. A simple internet search yields a variety of seasoning options that are sodium, preservative and MSG free.

Reducing salt to 2,300 milligrams that is about one teaspoon per day for the remaining 50 percent of the population will also improve health by helping American curb the incidence of hypertension that is the second leading cause of kidney failure. One in three adults in American suffer from high blood pressure.

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Reducing salt has been shown to lower the need for medications. According to the National Institutes of Health," the Trials of Hypertension Prevention, Phase II (TOHP II), published in 1997, found that short-term sodium reduction and weight loss each lowered blood pressure in those who were overweight and had slightly elevated blood pressures."

They also note a number of trials have shown just reducing salt moderately can have a positive impact on keeping blood pressure in check and causes no harm to health. Additionally, some individuals are "salt sensitive", putting them at higher risk than other for high blood pressure.

The American Heart Association notes though salt is an essential nutrient, "very little is needed in the diet". Up to 75 percent of sodium consumed comes from processed and canned foods and unnecessarily added.

In addition to reducing calorie intake, lowering salt as recommended by the new dietary guidelines is expected to save lives and reduce the financial and personal toll of kidney failure caused by hypertension.

The kidneys regulate salt in the body. Over time, high sodium intake upsets fluid volume balance in the body and blood pressure becomes higher as the kidneys try to compensate. Even minor disruptions in kidney function make blood pressure more difficult to control, damaging the kidneys even more.

The position statement from the ASN explains why lowering salt intake is important for long-term health and supported by a variety of studies that show the link between sodium intake, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and kidney damage. The result of all of the aforementioned leads to a downward spiral of poor health, increased economiv burden and decreased quality of life. Less sodium in the diet can save kidneys and spare other vital organs.


American Heart Association