Some people who are worried about their sodium intake are actually reducing their intake, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
The research, led by researchers at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, shows that when people reduce their salt intake, their risk of developing hypertension, heart disease and stroke also decreases.
In other words, when salt is reduced, people’s blood pressure drops, which in turn lowers their risk for these diseases.
This is a significant finding because previous research has found that when individuals cut back on salt intake their blood pressure and blood sugar levels go up.
The study used data from more than 25,000 people who participated in a study involving over a year of data collection in the US.
The researchers used a comprehensive analysis of the data to determine how much sodium they consumed during the study.
They found that, in general, individuals who consumed the least amount of salt at the beginning of the study had the most severe blood pressure-related side effects.
“There was a significant relationship between sodium intake and cardiovascular events,” Dr. William DeFries, the study’s senior author, told Al Jazeera.
“And there was a statistically significant relationship that showed a statistically significantly lower risk for heart disease in people who reduced their salt intakes significantly more than others.”
Dr DeFrys’ team found that people who cut back their sodium consumption by as much as 15 per cent from their baseline had a 39 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular events than those who did not.
This is the same level of reduction as the US government recommends people should consume per day.
“These are the people that we would expect to be most at risk from sodium-related cardiovascular events, which would be the ones who consume the most salt,” Dr DeFriees said.
“We can’t say that reducing salt intake causes heart disease, but the reduction in salt intake does reduce the risk of heart disease.”
Sodium is an essential nutrient that has been shown to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels.
Dr DeFranys team said the research may have implications for other people, too.
“The idea is that if you reduce your sodium intake, your risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease drops,” he said.
“In people with hypertension, if you decrease the amount you eat, you’re reducing your blood pressure.
In people with diabetes, if your sodium level is reduced you’re lowering your insulin and blood levels.”
Dr deFranys said there was still a lot of work to be done before the public can be confident that the benefits of reducing salt consumption outweigh the risks.
“You know, we’re just starting to look at this, so we’re going to be doing this research and then we’re seeing if there are other factors that can affect blood pressure,” he added.