Low sodium intake is associated with heart disease

A recent study in Canada examined the sodium and potassium intake of 28,800 participants in two large studies spanning a seven year period. They measures average excretion rates which is one way to determine intake as noted by a fairly high accuracy rate from this study.

The healthiest sodium intake was between 4 to 6 grams. Those who consumed lower or much higher amounts had higher incidence of death from heart attacks and strokes. I have not seen any randomized studies providing definitive proof that a low sodium diet reduces heart attack and stroke rates. The current science seems to indicate a moderate intake of sodium for improved cardiovascular health is best.

This is in stark contrast with current government recommendations which are as follows:

  • AI (adequate intake) is 1.5 grams
  • Maximum intake is 2.3 grams

Both of these government recommended daily allowance references place the public at increased risk for heart attack and stroke. No wonder cardiovascular disease is the per-eminent killer in America just behind iatrogenic causes. Reducing sodium too much is dangerous and ineffective for controlling blood pressure as demonstrated by this metaanalysis due to increased renin secretion (raising blood pressure) and sodium depletion (which causes a sympathetic response). The study also showed that moderate sodium intake of 4.6 grams (within a healthy range) did have a positive impact on blood pressure.

This, in addition to other factors may be why sodium intake higher than government guidelines is good for you. Sodium has many roles in our body. Perhaps the most well known is the sodium potassium pump (SPP). This is what helps maintain our blood pressure and contractility. Every muscle is dependent upon proper function of the SPP in order to work effectively, especially your heart.

We shouldn’t be afraid of sodium. We should be afraid of the processed foods that abuse sodium placing us at risk. Eating a healthy diet composes of whole, unprocessed foods and flavoring to taste with healthier versions of salt (like Himalayan or sea salt) and other healthy spices like cumin, cayenne, curry, and cinnamon are much wiser choices.

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