What’s the Truth About Your Health and Sodium Consumption?

By Emily Murray

It seems whenever our favorite dish or a new recipe needs a bit of flavor, the cure-all is an added dash of salt. It’s what makes us sinfully lust after those forbidden McDonald’s french fries or continue snacking on pretzels far after we are satiated, but do any of us really understand the total impact dietary salt has on our bodies? A recent study seems to hint that we are still learning new aspects of these each day.

Most of us have grown up hearing that we should “take it easy on the salt,” originally for the purpose of setting a good pattern of behavior for our adult years. This is because for years we have drawn a correlation between reducing salt intake and subsequently lowering our risk of heart attack and stroke.

While this still holds true, a new bit of information was recently revealed in the findings of a Danish study and it might be worth taking note of. The report, which recently appeared in the American Journal of Hypertension, claims that reducing salt intake may actually cause a slight increase in cholesterol levels. So while it is true that blood pressure can be lowered by reducing salt, it appears that it may impact another risk factor for heart attack and stroke. In fact, the study revealed that when salt was reduced in the diet there was about a one percent drop in blood pressure in those had normal readings and a 3.5% drop in those with hypertension.

The Study
In order to find the latest information about salt’s impact on the body, researchers looked at a meta-analysis of 167 previously published studies with participants who exhibited normal or high blood pressure and were then assigned at random to follow either low or high sodium diets. The participants were then compared and split up based on having a high or low sodium diet.

The sodium reduction used in the studies was fairly drastic, weighing in at about 2,162 milligrams/day in those with hypertension and 3,358 milligrams/day in those with normal blood pressure.

So how does this impact cholesterol?

Essentially, switching to a low sodium diet is now known to result in around a 2.5% increase in total cholesterol levels and a 7% increase in triglycerides. This is thought to be the result of the bodies hormonal reaction to having less dietary salt.

Confused about what this means for you?

As always talk to your doctor. If you have hypertension, maintaining a low sodium diet may have benefits that outweigh the potential for increased cholesterol. It will depend on your own medical history, but at least now we know that perhaps it will lead us to be more vigilant of our cholesterol monitoring while watching our sodium intake.