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Too much or Too Little Salt can be Bad, Study Reports

Update Date: Aug 14, 2014 09:41 AM EDT

For years, health experts have recommended people to take preventive measures against hypertension (high blood pressure) and heart disease by reducing their salt intake. Now, a new study is challenging that age long piece of advice. According to the researchers of an international large study, current salt consumption levels should be okay for one' health. Lower or higher salt levels, however, might be detrimental.

In this study headed by Dr. Salim Yusuf of McMaster University's Population Health Research Institute in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, the researchers observed more than 100,000 participants from 18 countries not including the U.S. The team did not limit the study to people with a high risk of heart disease. Around 40 percent of them had high blood pressure.

The team reported that higher sodium levels were linked to a greater risk of high blood pressure. This correlation was stronger in older people. Low sodium intake was not tied to high blood pressure risk. Overall, the researchers calculated that people who ate three to six grams of sodium, which is equivalent to eight to 15 grams of salt, had the lowest risk of heart disease or death from any cause. When people consumed more or less than this amount, these risks increased.

The researchers added that roughly 75 percent of the world's population eats between three to six grams of sodium per day. Americans eat around four grams of sodium per day. However, certain groups such as the American Heart Association recommend a daily amount of 1.5 to 2.4 grams per day.

The researchers added that potassium was capable of combating the effects of sodium. People who consumed potassium, which is most commonly found in fruits and vegetables, had reduced blood pressure levels and risk of heart problems.

Dr. Yusuf stated that these findings are not encouraging people to consume more salt, but rather, to eat within the ideal range. Several experts have already criticized the study stating that too much salt intake every year contributes to heart disease. A recent study reported that high sodium levels could be linked to 1.65 million deaths annually.

"These are now the best data available," Dr. Brian Strom, the chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, who led an Institute of Medicine panel last year that found little evidence to support very low sodium levels, said according to FOX News. "Too-high sodium is bad. Too low also may be bad, and sodium isn't the whole story. People should go for moderation."

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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