Too little salt is unhealthy, New study finds

Aug 14, 2014 12:12 PM EDT | By Staff Reporter

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It's been recommended that too much sodium intake is bad for our health, but now a new study found that people who eat the least salt may be hurting their hearts.

According to current guidelines set U.S. government agencies, the World Health Organization, the American Heart Association and other groups, daily dietary sodium targets are between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams or lower, well below the average U.S. daily consumption of about 3,400 milligrams.

The results published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine found the expected link between heart complications and high levels of sodium, which is known to boost blood pressure and cardiovascular risks.

"There is a sweet spot for what the optimum sodium intake is," said Salim Yusuf, senior author of the paper and director of the Population Health Research Institute in Ontario. "The message is very simple: . . . Avoid high and low levels."

"We shouldn't be focusing on restricting our sodium intake to really low levels," said Andrew Mente, an associate professor of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics at McMaster University, who acknowledges that sodium is necessary for managing physiological functions, nerve processing and maintaining fluid levels.

The experts agreed that too much sodium is dangerous and it comes mainly from packaged foods and restaurant meals. It's important for consumers to read food labels to get a good sense of how much salt they consume each day.

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