A low salt diet is one of the key messages to emanate from the medical authorities in the UK and the US in the past decade. But how much faith should we put in this creed; should we be as concerned as they would have us believe?
10 years ago the UK government encouraged the food industry to reduce the salt content of their products. This has resulted in a 15% reduction in salt intake and a corresponding 42% reduction in deaths due to stroke and 40% drop due to heart disease.
However the Research published in the BMJ does admit that other factors could have contributed to the results; citing a fall in the number of people smoking and a greater number of people regularly eating fruit and vegetables.
Concerns about salt intake first surfaced following a study by America's National Institutes of Health in 2001, the DASH sodium study but later studies have failed to replicate these conclusions.
The human body is well able to control the levels of salt in the blood through the kidneys. It is only in the modern era that problems have arisen due to the high salt levels of processed foods and beverages.
People who stick to a normal diet of healthy, natural foods would not be consuming salt levels that could raise their risk of hypertension and its associated health problems.
Two analyses were carried out in 2011 by the Cochrane Collaboration, a non profit organisation that reviews medical evidence, to assess the results from a large number of studies. One analysis found that although a reduction in salt lowered blood pressure there was no evidence that this reduced the incidence of heart disease or stroke.
The other checked over 150 trials and studies to conclude that reducing salt intake lowered blood pressure but failed to find evidence that this prevented premature death or heart disease.
Just as importantly we should ensure we get enough salt in our diet as too little prompts the kidneys to secrete an enzyme, renin, which can lead to raised blood pressure.
So unless you are regularly consuming processed foods with high salt levels the occasional bag of crisps is unlikely to do you any harm.
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