Hold the Salt: Harvard Study Attributes 1 in 10 U.S. Deaths to High Sodium Consumption

  • A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health suggests 1 in 10 U.S. deaths is linked to salt consumption, with one in three deaths due to excessive sodium consumption occurring before the age of 70. This is compared to earlier studies that claimed sugar was more dangerous, with sugary drinks causing nearly 25,000 U.S. deaths per year.
  • “The burden of sodium is much higher than the burden of sugar-sweetened beverages. That’s because sugar-sweetened beverages are just one type of food that people can avoid, whereas sodium is in everything,” said Harvard epidemiologist Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, author of both the salt and sugar studies.
  • The research is based on 247 surveys looking at sodium intake and 107 clinical trials measuring how salt affects blood pressure, and specifically how blood pressure attributes to cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke.
  • Bread and cheese are the top two source of sodium in the U.S., making sodium a sneaky ingredient that nearly everyone consumes daily, likely in too great of quantities.
  • Researchers concluded that the ideal level of salt consumption is 1,000 milligrams per day, which is less than a third of the average American intake. Previous guidelines from the USDA recommended no more than 2,400 milligrams a day to avoid health problems, which is around one teaspoon. For those at risk of high blood pressure, the recommended amount is 1,500 milligrams a day.
  • ABC News’chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser recommends shopping the perimeter of the grocery store to avoid picking up products with too much salt. This would include fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products. Here are three more ways to reduce salt in your diet.

Find more information at ABC News.





Our resident dietitian Mary Hartley, RD, had this to say about the study:

“‘One in ten cardiac deaths is blamed on salt’ is the conclusion of an epidemiological research team that is based on a preliminary analysis of past surveys and clinical trials linking premature death rates in entire countries to salt consumption per million adults. The study has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. At best, it is a weak association that does not come close to proving a cause-and-effect. Besides, dietary intake data from humans is always sketchy because people often do not accurately report what they eat and it is difficult to draw conclusions based on dietary data from populations.”

According to Mary, nothing has changed as a result of this study. In the U.S., the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for healthy adults is 2300 mg per day, and the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends an upper limit of 1500 mg per day for people over 50, and 1200 mg per day for those over 70. However, the average American adult consumes 4000 mg per day.

Also Read: 

What You Actually Get to Eat on the Mediterranean Diet

7 Ways to Stop Sugar Cravings

Fast Food in the U.S. Contains More Sodium Than in Other Countries


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