Is A Low-Sodium Diet Bad For You?
Is a low-sodium diet bad for you? A low-sodium diet is highly recommended by nearly every health-focused organization in the country. Everyone from the U.S. government to the American Heart Association to the Heart Failure Society of America recommends cutting back on sodium to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and hypertension.
But, according to a 2016 study out of McMaster University, a low-sodium diet may not be as beneficial as these organizations claim. In fact, it may be downright dangerous. Researchers at the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences conducted an analysis of data collected from 49 countries, involving over 130,000 people.
They examined the relationship between sodium intake and mortality rates, as well as incidences of heart attacks or strokes. The researchers looked specifically at whether a low-sodium diet reduced the risk of cardiac disorders compared to average-sodium or high-sodium diets.
No surprise, the high-sodium diets were most likely to trigger cardiac events. However, the researchers discovered another surprising fact: low-sodium diets led to more strokes and heart attacks and a higher mortality rate than an average sodium diet.
This discovery completely changes the way we view sodium. Yes, those with hypertension and high blood pressure should try to cut back on sodium. Low sodium intake has been linked with lowered blood pressure. However, there is such a thing as cutting back too much.
As this study proves, not enough sodium is significantly more dangerous than getting a normal amount of sodium in your diet. A low sodium diet may lower your blood pressure, but it can raise your chances of a fatal heart attack or stroke.
How much is a normal amount of sodium? According to the study, the average Canadian consumes between 3.5 and 4.5 grams of sodium per day. Cutting back to less than three grams of sodium per day is considered a low sodium diet, so it's better to stick with the average sodium consumption.
Just be careful not to stray into the realm of high consumption—more than six grams of sodium in your diet per day. That's when your risk of high blood pressure and hypertension rises significantly, leading to more heart disorders (including strokes and heart attacks.)
As this study proves, moderation is the key to being healthy. The human body relies on sodium for water retention. Just like too much sodium can be bad for you, not enough sodium can be dangerous for your health.
1. Andrew Mente et al., "Associations of urinary sodium excretion with cardiovascular events in individuals with and without hypertension: a pooled analysis of data from four studies." The Lancet, 2016 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30467-6.