Saltier Language

8 07 2011

Very often here we have discussed how sometimes Less can be More, but sometimes Less is simply Less. Sometimes it depends on the road Less traveled. If you haven’t read July’s article in Basil Magazine (link here: Dr. Mike’s July Basil Magazine Article) take a moment to do so, the following discussion continues the data and thoughts provided therein.

A recent review of trials looking at the effect of sodium reduction on cardiovascular endpoints looked at seven previous studies: three in normotensive individuals, two in hypertensives, one in a mixed population of those with hypertension and those with normal blood pressure and one group with heart failure (notoriously sensitive to the effects of increased salt intake).

What this analysis, published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and the American Journal of Hypertension[i] did was look at the combined results from these studies. The cumulative examination looked at over 6000 participants attempting to reduce their dietary intake of salt (sodium). It confirmed that lowering the intake of salt did result in a blood pressure reduction of 1 to 4mmHg. Additionally, there appeared to be a risk reduction in those reducing salt consumption (verified by examining urinary excretion of sodium), although this was not statistically significant.

Part of the difficulty in examining these studies is that when the changes are small in nature, it takes a very large amount of participants (which means a lot of money to do the studies) to show a statistically significant difference. For example, for the difference in this study to have reached statistical significance it would have required about 18,000 participants; at which point the apparent benefit may not have even been realized.

What does seem to be important is the method of exposure to high levels of salt intake. Chronic exposure to high sodium intake appears to increase the risk of hypertensive effects. However the direct evidence linking high dietary salt consumption and cardiovascular disease is “weak and inconsistent,” according to Salim Yusuf, DPhil, of McMaster University. Reducing sodium exposure works to lower blood pressure and that is hypothesized to correlate with a reduction in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Previous studies have demonstrated that intensive sodium restriction may yield only modest levels of blood pressure reduction, on the order of 1mmHg[ii] . One reason why asking participants to reduce their dietary intake of sodium may not be effective may be a matter of degrees. Only around 5% of our intake of sodium comes from what we add, over 75% of our daily intake of sodium comes in pre-processed, prepackaged and prepared foods. Therein lays the “hidden” danger.

Enter our Grassroots Gourmet™ principles:

  • Be Aware and Avoid the Call of The Junk Food/Fast Food Siren- An extraordinary amount of these items are extremely high in sodium, often used as a means of preservative. These items are often meant to be assembled-usually fried in some form-not cooked. This is about as far from freshly prepared and crafted real food as you can get.
  • Be Fresh, But No Adultery- Even when shopping to prepare items yourself, be on guard. The prepared and prepackaged items are often very high in sodium, frequently used as preservatives and flavor enhancers. The less adulterated and manipulated your ingredients are when you start the more you can control what does -and what doesn’t- go into your food.

If you want to host your own party of deliciousness, watch your guest list.


[i] (Taylor, Ashton, & Moxham, 2011)

[ii] (Cochrane Database Syst Rev , 2004)




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