Not enough salt? New study’s surprising findings

The last thing most of us would expect to hear from a medical specialist concerned about heart health is, “Consider adding more salt to your diet.”

Yet, as ludicrous as that might sound, a recent study has thrown up a possible link between a sodium-restricted diet and mortality rates in those who with heart failure.

To be clear here, the findings do not make any suggestion that healthy people should increase their salt (sodium chloride) intake.

No-one is denying that there is too much salt in the diets of most Westerners. Rather, the study indicates that a lower salt intake in those who already have heart failure may increase their risk of death.

“Our findings showed that restricting dietary sodium to less than the usual recommendation was counterproductive in the management of heart failure,” Dr Palicherla said in a statement to the American College of Cardiology.

“This was in line with a recent randomised controlled trial suggesting that restricting sodium more than we do now doesn’t necessarily lead to better outcomes.”

Those findings come from what is known as a meta-analysis – the examination of data from a number of independent studies of the same subject to determine overall trends.

The quality of results of a meta-analysis is therefore highly dependent on the quality of the studies it analyses.

According to Dr Palicherla, the analysis included a high enough number of studies and participants to give the researchers a high level of confidence in the overall findings.

Not everyone agrees with Dr Palicherla.

One such expert, Dr Lawrence J. Appel, says: “There is a huge problem with this meta-analysis [because] it relies on four trials done by a single group in Italy.

“There has been substantial concern about research integrity, with numerous irregularities as well as manuscript retractions,” he continued, in reference to the four studies.

Another expert, Professor Graham MacGregor, has similar concerns, noting that the meta-analysis actually includes a number of now retracted studies.

Prof. MacGregor highlighted a potentially complicating factor in analysing those who had suffered heart failure. “Heart failure patients are on diuretics that deplete patients of sodium, so you need to be very careful,” he said.

So what can we take away from these revelations? It is possible that there may be a link between lower salt intake and mortality for heart failure patients, but it remains just that – a possibility.

What is in no doubt is that for the average person without heart issues in Western society, lowering your salt intake will lower your risk of an adverse cardiac episode.

In other words, if you lower your salt intake now, you’re far less likely to have to worry about whether your intake is too low later.

Have you had a discussion with your GP about salt intake? Have you taken steps to reduce yours? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

Also read: Ramping up exercise after heart problems may be the best medicine: study

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyer
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.
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