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New Study Shows Polarised Viewpoints On Impact Of Salt On Health

Update Date: Feb 22, 2016 09:59 AM EST

There are mixed opinions on the effect of salt on our health.

In a new analysis of various reports by researchers from Columbia University, it has been found that there is a "polarized opinion". About 54 percent has supported the hypothesis that reducing salt intake leads to better health. But 33 percent contradicts this view and 13 percent are inconclusive.

After probing 269 academic reports published between 1979 and 2014, including "primary studies, meta-analyses, clinical guidelines, consensus statements, comments, letters and narrative reviews", the team categorised the studies into two classes---for or against the reduction of salt, as well lower rates of heart disease, stroke and death. More than half the reports got published after 2011.

It has been pointed out that papers on both sides are sourcing reports that draw similar conclusions, even as they ignore reports that draw dissimilar ones.

"There are two almost distinct bodies of scholarship--one supporting and one opposing the claim that salt reduction in populations will improve clinical outcomes," David Johns, who participated in the analysis, said in a press release."Each is driven by a few prolific authors who tend to cite other researchers who share their point of view, with little apparent collaboration between the two 'sides.'"

"We pay quite a bit of attention to financial bias in our work," added Sandro Galea, who also participated in the analysis. "We seldom pay attention, however, to how long-held beliefs bias the questions we ask and the results we publish, even as new data become available."

There seems to be little consistency in the primary study selections.

"Decision-makers often must choose a course of action in the face of conflicting, uncertain evidence," said Ludovic Trinquart, co-author of the analysis. "Both the misuse of uncertainty and the exaggeration of certainty can shape the outcomes of public health decision-making processes."

The findings were published in the Feb. 17 issue of the International Journal of Epidemiology.

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