Eating too much salt raises blood pressure, causes kidney failure and so forth. But how much is too much? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is trying to persuade the food industry to cut back on the amount of salt in their products with the aim of getting Americans to consume an average 2300 milligrams of sodium chloride per day (about a teaspoon-full). The American Heart Association wants people to cut back to 1500 milligrams.
The problem is that recent research shows that forcing people to consume amounts of salt that low will most likely result in more deaths than allowing them to eat the current American average of 3400 milligrams per day.
In fact, the New York Times reports that two recent studies in the New England Journal of Medicine found that consuming between 3000 and 6000 milligrams of salt daily is not associated with higher mortality. From the Times:
It found that people who consumed more than 7 grams of sodium per day had a significantly higher chance of death than people who ate 3-6 grams per day. People consuming high levels of sodium had higher rates of heart attacks, heart failures and strokes as well…
The second New England Journal of Medicine study did just that. In addition to looking at high sodium diets, it also compared the health outcomes of those who had very low sodium diets. What they found was worrisome. When compared with those who consumed 3-6 grams per day, people who consumed less than 3 grams of sodium per day had an even higher risk of death or cardiovascular incidents than those who consumed more than 7 grams per day.
By seeking to impose, with the best of intentions, a one-size-fits-all requirement in order to protect people who are disposed to high blood pressure and kidney failure from consuming too much salt, the health nannies may well kill more people than they hope to save.
For more background on FDA health nannyism see Baylen Linnekin's "The FDA's Idiotic Attack on 'Added' Ingredients."
Disclosure: My blood pressure was 105/80 when my physician checked it earlier this year.