- Advice on reducing your sodium intake should be taken
with a pinch of salt, according to the latest research. Not only is there
no need to eat less of it but it can also be positively dangerous for some
- Scientists across Europe have completed three studies
which contradict a British Government health warning that people should
cut their intake to six grams a day.
- Research from the University Medical Centre Utrecht in
the Netherlands, to be published this summer, showed that there was no
material benefit from a lower intake.
- Prof Deiderick Grobbee, a cardiovascular specialist and
an author of the report, said: "If people stick within a range of
moderate sodium intake, which we normally get from salt in our food, there
is no material variation to the risk of mortality."
- There was little to be gained, he said, by cutting salt
for anyone on a typical Western diet who eats the equivalent of 16g or
three-and-half teaspoonfuls a day.
- The independent research, known as the Rotterdam Study,
involved almost 8,000 people in their fifties and above. Each person's
sodium intake was estimated from a nightly urine sample and compared with
their blood pressure over a month.
- The findings showed that as long as their salt intake
was moderate - no more than 16g a day - there was an insignificant effect
on blood pressure.
- Excessive consumption, however, between 21g and 27g a
day increased the risk of a stroke, although there was no causal link with
cardiovascular problems such as heart failure.
- Other scientists at the conference, organised by European
Union salt producers, went further saying that the guidance to reduce salt
intake could be dangerous to pregnant women and the elderly.
- Prof Markus Mohaupt, from the Inselspital Academic Health
Centre, Bern, in Switzerland, found that pregnant women with pre-eclampsia
- a condition that affects two in 25 pregnant women - could benefit from
up to 20g of salt a day.
- Pre-eclampsia causes high blood pressure and can lead
to still birth. The elderly are also at risk if they stick to a low-salt
diet, according to Prof Ingo F¸sgen, a cardiovascular specialist
from Kliniken St Antonius, in Germany.
- His findings showed that one in 10 of the older population
suffered from sodium deficiency which could result in nervous disposition,
hallucinations, muscle cramps and hip fractures.
- The results, however, which were presented at the conference
in Brussels last week, were condemned by supporters of salt reduction.
- Prof Graham MacGregor, a cardiovascular specialist at
St George's Hospital, London, and the chairman of Consensus Action on Salt
and Health, said: "You will always find scientists that will go against
the main body of research.
- "Chronic ingestion of the amount of salt that we
eat slowly puts up our blood pressure and is largely responsible for many
strokes and heart attacks and that's why the five to six grams a day target
- A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency added: "It's
misleading and irresponsible to challenge the Government's recommendation
using a very selective view of science, and will not help people make healthier
choices about what they eat.
- "Over one third of British adults have high blood
pressure and two thirds of them are not receiving any treatment.
- "There is scientific consensus that there are real
benefits to be achieved by reducing salt intake, such as reducing the risk
of heart disease and stroke."
- © Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.