Volume 4, Issue 47
November 24, 2011
Is salt really bad for you?
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you’re having a wonderful time with friends and family. I also hope you’re eating plenty of great food. And I hope you’re enjoying it well-salted.
What? Am I crazy? Won’t salt give you high blood pressure and heart problems? That’s what they told me when I was in medical school way back in the 1960s. They told me that patients with heart disease, especially those with heart failure, need to be very careful to restrict salt intake.
Then later, when I started to realize that they didn't teach me everything I needed to know in school, I learned something even more astounding. I found out that restricting salt was the wrong thing to do for many people. So what’s the answer? Is salt good or bad?
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According to a new British study, the medical establishment has greatly overestimated the danger of salt.
The new study comes out of the University of Exeter in the UK. The authors performed a meta-analysis of seven different published studies that looked at the effect of salt restriction vs. no restriction on heart attacks and strokes.
All in all, they looked at approximately 6,250 patients. Of these, 665 eventually died during the study periods. Three of the studies included only patients who had normal blood pressures. Two included only patients with high blood pressure. One was mixed with respect to blood pressure. And one was in patients with heart failure. Here's what they found.
Overall, other than a 1-4 mm/Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure, there was no appreciable effect of salt restriction in any of the patients. In particular, salt restriction did not reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes at all. But here's the really surprising thing.
According to the researchers, “Salt restriction increased the risk of all-cause mortality in those with heart failure.” This is just another way of saying that these patients died more often when they restricted their salt intake! Amazing! The researchers’ overall conclusion was that if salt restriction does anything at all, it probably works by very slightly lowering blood pressure.
Of course like all studies, we are looking only at statistics. Hidden within those statistics may be individual cases in which salt restriction was helpful. But on the whole, it looks like whether or not you use salt matters very little except if you have congestive heart failure. And, in that case, the data indicates that restricting salt intake is a bad thing.
So eat your Thanksgiving dinner without worrying about your salt intake. Of course, if you really want to get the most out of your salt, use sea salt. It has far more nutrients than regular table salt.
Finding your Real Cures,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
REF: Taylor RS, Ashton KE, Moxham T, Hooper L, Ebrahim S. Reduced dietary salt for the prevention of cardiovascular disease: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (Cochrane review). Am J Hypertens. 2011 Aug;24(8):843-53.
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