RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Earlier this year, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its new dietary guidelines, you could almost hear a simultaneous yawn across America. Many dieticians criticized its "more-of-the-same" recommendations that are clearly not working to keep our nation's weight and health in check.
There was one point in the guidelines, however, that sparked universal approval: They took an ax to the maximum amount of salt we should eat on a daily basis. And a low-salt diet is now recommended for everyone, not just the overweight or people living with chronic health issues. "Though salt often gets ignored by dieters and healthy eaters, it’s actually one of the deadliest ingredients in the food supply," explains Heather Jones, RD, author of The Salt Solution. "Most people are seriously overdosing on sodium."
THE DETAILS: Americans adults, on average, take in nearly 3,500 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day, mostly through salty food, but it sneaks in through beverages and condiments, too. The new guidelines stipulate that adults in general should toe the line and eat no more than 2,300 mg of salt a day—about one teaspoon's worth. Anyone 51 or older and/or living with high blood pressure, as well as all African American adults, is encouraged to limit sodium intake to just 1,500 mg.
It's well known that eating too much salt is linked to heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. But more and more research is finding that a high-salt diet causes other serious and life-threatening diseases, including these three:
1. Cancer—A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at 80,000 Japanese adults and found that excess salt is linked to a 15-percent higher risk of developing cancer.
2. Osteoporosis—High-salt diets also effect bone health, explains Jones. "High-salt diets have been shown to increase calcium loss," she explains. "When your bones lose calcium, they become weak. Over time, this leads to osteoporosis."
Jones points out that for every 2,300 mg of sodium ingested, on average, you excrete about 20 to 60 more milligrams of calcium.
3. Dementia—Other studies have found a link between high blood pressure and dementia. Since too much salt can send blood pressure skyrocketing, cutting out excess sodium could help save your brain, too. "Researchers have shown that treating hypertension can reduce dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease by half," says Jones. "Maybe your forgetfulness isn’t due to getting older—it could be caused by how much salt you eat!"
Published on: March 1, 2011