Salt Not So Bad For You,
Say Scientists

By Nina Goswami
The Telegraph - UK
Advice on reducing your sodium intake should be taken with a pinch of salt, according to the latest research. Not only is there no need to eat less of it but it can also be positively dangerous for some people's health.
Scientists across Europe have completed three studies which contradict a British Government health warning that people should cut their intake to six grams a day.
Research from the University Medical Centre Utrecht in the Netherlands, to be published this summer, showed that there was no material benefit from a lower intake.
Prof Deiderick Grobbee, a cardiovascular specialist and an author of the report, said: "If people stick within a range of moderate sodium intake, which we normally get from salt in our food, there is no material variation to the risk of mortality."
There was little to be gained, he said, by cutting salt for anyone on a typical Western diet who eats the equivalent of 16g or three-and-half teaspoonfuls a day.
The independent research, known as the Rotterdam Study, involved almost 8,000 people in their fifties and above. Each person's sodium intake was estimated from a nightly urine sample and compared with their blood pressure over a month.
The findings showed that as long as their salt intake was moderate - no more than 16g a day - there was an insignificant effect on blood pressure.
Excessive consumption, however, between 21g and 27g a day increased the risk of a stroke, although there was no causal link with cardiovascular problems such as heart failure.
Other scientists at the conference, organised by European Union salt producers, went further saying that the guidance to reduce salt intake could be dangerous to pregnant women and the elderly.
Prof Markus Mohaupt, from the Inselspital Academic Health Centre, Bern, in Switzerland, found that pregnant women with pre-eclampsia - a condition that affects two in 25 pregnant women - could benefit from up to 20g of salt a day.
Pre-eclampsia causes high blood pressure and can lead to still birth. The elderly are also at risk if they stick to a low-salt diet, according to Prof Ingo F¸sgen, a cardiovascular specialist from Kliniken St Antonius, in Germany.
His findings showed that one in 10 of the older population suffered from sodium deficiency which could result in nervous disposition, hallucinations, muscle cramps and hip fractures.
The results, however, which were presented at the conference in Brussels last week, were condemned by supporters of salt reduction.
Prof Graham MacGregor, a cardiovascular specialist at St George's Hospital, London, and the chairman of Consensus Action on Salt and Health, said: "You will always find scientists that will go against the main body of research.
"Chronic ingestion of the amount of salt that we eat slowly puts up our blood pressure and is largely responsible for many strokes and heart attacks and that's why the five to six grams a day target was set."
A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency added: "It's misleading and irresponsible to challenge the Government's recommendation using a very selective view of science, and will not help people make healthier choices about what they eat.
"Over one third of British adults have high blood pressure and two thirds of them are not receiving any treatment.
"There is scientific consensus that there are real benefits to be achieved by reducing salt intake, such as reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke."
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.



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