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Salt Institute: Scrap ‘arbitrary’ and ‘capricious’ sodium targets now

4 commentsBy Elaine Watson , 04-Oct-2011
Last updated on 04-Oct-2011 at 16:37 GMT

‘Arbitrary’ and ‘capricious’ government sodium targets should be scrapped, immediately, along with “all legislative or regulatory actions based on them” unless officials can produce hard evidence that they are based on sound scientific evidence, the Salt Institute has argued.

In an open letter to agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack and Department of Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Salt Institute president Lori Roman said the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) had displayed a “complete disregard for numerous scientific studies” that challenged the prevailing hypothesis that cutting sodium – ideally to 1,500mg/day – could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

She added: “We respectfully request the withdrawal of the sodium provisions, and the initiation of an open and transparent rulemaking procedure, with public hearings, to establish sodium provisions supported by current and reliable scientific and medical evidence.”

‘Complete disregard for numerous scientific studies’

The sodium targets in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (<1,500mg for those aged 51+, African Americans, plus anyone with hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, and< 2,300mg for everyone else) originated from a 2004 Institute of Medicine report which had made recommendations about DRIs despite acknowledging* that it lacked the data to develop RDAs for sodium, claimed Roman.

She added: “Rather than thoroughly assessing the latest scientific and medical knowledge on sodium, the agencies reached a conclusion in 2005 based on insufficient evidence [the 2004 IOM report] and then repeated the error in 2010 [when they came up with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans].”

She also pointed to a recent high-profile Cochrane review published in the American Journal of Hypertension, which concluded that “cutting down on the amount of salt has no clear benefits in terms of likelihood of dying or experiencing cardiovascular disease”.

She added: “Government bureaucrats are ignoring science that does not conform to their agenda by failing to consider the negative health impacts of sodium reduction in diets, failing to address that there is a physiological sodium appetite, and failing to address conflicting evidence on the impact of sodium on blood pressure and obesity.”

AHA stands by <1,500mg-a-day recommendation

USDA is still formulating its response to the letter, but the American Heart Association told FoodNavigator-USA that it stood by its <1,500mg/day recommendation, as outlined in a paper in its journal Circulation in January.

This concluded that “people – whether or not they have high blood pressure – [should] limit the amount of sodium consumed daily to no more than 1,500 mg”.

It added: “Two of the key metrics for ideal cardiovascular health are a blood pressure of less than 120/80 mm Hg and sodium consumption of less than 1,500 mg/day.”

Dietary Guidelines: “Virtually all Americans eat too much sodium”

According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, "virtually all Americans consume more sodium than they need”.

The guidelines state: “An immediate, deliberate reduction in the sodium content of foods in the marketplace is necessary to allow consumers to reduce sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg, or 1,500 mg per day [for those aged 51+, all African Americans, plus anyone with hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease] now.”

Industry has been quick to respond, with several leading US food manufacturers recently joining the National Salt Reduction Initiative (NSRI), which aims to cut salt in retail and foodservice across the US by 25% in five years.

However, recent consumer research conducted by the International Food Information Council revealed that most Americans still don’t know how much sodium they should eat, or how much they actually do eat. A surprisingly high number (59%) also claimed to be unconcerned about their sodium intake.

* Roman highlights a section of the IOM report that reads: “Because of insufficient data from dose-response trials, an Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) [for sodium] could not be established, and thus a Recommended Dietary Allowance could not be derived. Hence, an Adequate Intake (AI) is provided.”

Click here to read the IOM report from 2004 in full.

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4 comments (Comments are now closed)

Nanny State Going Too Far

Do not take away our freedom to eat what we choose. I'm tired of Mayor Bloomberg & the Obama folks telling us what to eat. Every time they come up with a new diet fad to experiment on with the entire country, there are unintended health consequences. Just let people be!

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Posted by Greg
07 October 2011 | 00h34

Iodized salt makes my feet and legs swell

I must cook my own meals with non-iodized salt, otherwise my feet and legs swell after eating processed food. I take a thyroid medication which is a form of iodine. I believe processed food puts me over the top on iodine.

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Posted by Redhead
06 October 2011 | 00h40

Is salt reduction the Emporer's New Clothes?

For whatever reason most government health departments are around the world are likely to ignore any scientifc evidence questioning the value of salt reduction. Sodium reduction policy has been driven by a herd mentality, after all the expenmse of public education and industry reformulation to change the message would be too embarassing. The Salt Industry will be ignored as biased but the anti-salt lobby will not. If salt reduction was a anti hypertensive drug it would not have passed Phase 1 clinical trials. The Cochrane review is a thorough review of the evidence and not to be ignored. Yet it will take a brave public health body to take on board its advice. Generally providied potassium intakes are adequate sodium (salt) has little impact on blood pressure.

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Posted by Gary
05 October 2011 | 13h24

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