The NYC Health Department is hitting back at a new study that seems to contradict the consensus that a low-sodium diet reduces the risk of heart disease. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, followed 3,681 people for an average of eight years and determined that those with the lowest sodium in their urine had the highest rate of deadly heart disease! There were 50 heart disease deaths in the low-sodium group, compared to 10 deaths in the higher-sodium group. Salt: The key to a healthy heart?
The study drops as the Bloomberg administration makes progress in getting big food companies to voluntarily reduce the sodium in their processed food. Asked to comment on the report, a Health Department spokesperson says:
Part of the article findings are consistent with the majority of scientific studies to date, which have found that high sodium intake is associated with high blood pressure, one of the leading risk factors for heart disease. Unlike several other studies, this study's authors found a higher number of deaths from heart disease for one group of study subjects with the lowest sodium intake; however, they found no difference in death from all causes among the study groups.
Public health recommendations are based on careful weighing of a large number of medical studies, which commonly contain conflicting results and studies of greater and lesser strength of design. On balance, the medical literature shows a strong relationship between higher sodium intake and high blood pressure, cardiovascular events and death.
Ralph Sacco, MD, president of the American Heart Association, tells Medpage Today, "One study is not enough to change policy." The average daily intake of sodium in the U.S. is a whopping 3,500 milligrams, much of it from processed and packaged foods. That's more than twice the amount recommended by the Health Department, which says your daily intake should be no more than 1,500 milligrams. So you could follow their advice, or use this new study as an excuse to double down on your salt rations. As always, the question is, What Would Curtis Sliwa Do?