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Low-Salt Diets: More Harm than Good?

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Raising questions about the dietary recommendations for salt, a report from the Institute of Medicine finds "insufficient and inconsistent" evidence to support limiting sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams per day.

The report documents a committee investigation on whether there was enough evidence to recommend that people at high risk for heart disease and stroke reduce their salt consumption to 1,500 milligrams per day; in particular, whether those with high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and congestive heart failure, African Americans, and those older than 51 years of age benefit by reducing salt to this level.

In its findings, the report says no sufficient evidence was found for treating these subgroups differently than the general population.  It found that for patients with mid- to late-stage congestive heart failure, dropping sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams per day actually led to a worse health outcome.

“This is not permission to go out and load salt on your popcorn,” ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser said of the IOM report, which was sponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “What it’s saying is [to] cut back on your salt, but don't bring it down to as low a level as is currently recommended.”

The American Heart Association criticized the report, calling it "incomplete” because “it does not focus its examinations on scientific evidence that links excess consumption and high blood pressure.”

The average American consumes more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day.

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