Eating Less Salt Does Not Lower Blood Pressure for Most Americans, Says Yet Another Study

The failure of consensus nutrition "science" and the ongoing collapse of dietary puritanism.



The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that "most Americans should consume less sodium." The CDC asserts, "Your body needs a small amount of sodium to work properly, but too much sodium is bad for your health. Excess sodium can increase your blood pressure and your risk for a heart disease and stroke. Together, heart disease and stroke kill more Americans each year than any other cause."

Yet, evidence has been gathering for years that the amount of salt consumed by most Americans is not causing them appreciable harm. A new study that followed more than 2,600 people for 16 years in the Framingham Offspring Study, once again, debunks the Federal nutrition nannies' dire claims about salt. The new results are being reported by at the American Society for Nutrition Scientific Sessions during the Experimental Biology 2017 meeting in Chicago.

"We saw no evidence that a diet lower in sodium had any long-term beneficial effects on blood pressure," said Boston University School of Medicine lead researcher Lynn Moore. "Our findings add to growing evidence that current recommendations for sodium intake may be misguided."

The press release announcing the results noted:

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sodium intake to 2,300 micromilligrams* a day for healthy people. For the study, the researchers followed 2,632 men and women ages 30 to 64 years old who were part of the Framingham Offspring Study. The participants had normal blood pressure at the study's start. However, over the next 16 years, the researchers found that the study participants who consumed less than 2500 milligrams of sodium a day had higher blood pressure than participants who consumed higher amounts of sodium.

Other large studies published in the past few years have found what researchers call a J-shaped relationship between sodium and cardiovascular risk–that means people with low-sodium diets (as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans) and people with a very high sodium intake (above the usual intake of the average American) had higher risks of heart disease. Those with the lowest risk had sodium intakes in the middle, which is the range consumed by most Americans.

"Our new results support these other studies that have questioned the wisdom of low dietary sodium intakes in the general population," said Moore.

The researchers suggest that some subset of Americans may be especially salt sensitive and would benefit from consuming less. Better tests should be devised to identify such people so that the rest of us can consume our sodium in peace. As always folks, if your goal is to protect your health strive for moderation in what you eat and drink.

For more background on the ongoing collapse of dietary puritanism, see my article "The Red Meat, Eggs, Fat and Salt Diet."

*Press release said "grams," but as astute readers noted, it's really micromilligrams**. Fixed. **Haste makes mistakes.

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  1. Stupid New Yorkers! First the Yankees, now the sodium chloride! Who will rid me of these meddlesome priests?

  2. Minor correction: It’s actually fewer salts.

    1. OMG I beat First to a first. Salt on the house! My tab!

      1. Except your comment was nonsense.

          1. It’s nonsense all the way down.

            1. Gobbledygook!

          2. That’s that it takes to pull you out of the woodwork? Mere hypocrisy? You’ve just made me suspect one of you is the other’s sockpuppet.

            1. This is the First step to unwellness, First. Turn back. TURN BACK.

              1. It’s like you people don’t know me at all.

        1. Except your comment was nonsense.

          I dunno. Don’t most nannies these days tell their spouses and children and everone else in the world that they should be consuming “fewer salts”?

  3. I’ll guess climate scientists still wonder why people don’t trust the experts.

    When it comes to science, my assumption that the scientist is actually correct is getting weak. I don’t buy a word from climate or dietary “scientists” on any issue. If a dietary “scientist” told me that chugging Crisco was unhealthy, I’d consider chugging it as a precaution.

    1. Just because ad verecundiam is a logical fallacy doesn’t mean that experts are always wrong.

      1. They’re wrong whenever it’s convenient for me personally. Which is totally not fallacious thinking at all.

        1. Stupid Tony. It’s the Age of Trump. The experts are always wrong!

    2. Which is a drag because if that happens too much, you have know way of deciding what you ought to believe if it is outside of your capability to personally investigate it.

  4. Better tests should be devised to identify such people so that the rest of us can consume our sodium in peace. As always folks, if your goal is to protect your health strive for moderation in what you eat and drink.

    A shill for Monsanto would say that. (Just kidding, Bailey. Just kidding.)

  5. 2,300 grams a day

    That’s one-tenth of a 50-pound livestock salt block per day. I can’t eat that many potato chips.

    1. I noticed that too. Has to be wrong.

    2. Yeah, that’s way above the lethal dose.

      1. All: Yep. Just as y’all point out the press release has a typo – it’s supposed to be micrograms. Fixed now. Thanks!

        1. Actually, it’s supposed to be milligrams.

        2. Pretty sure it’s milligrams, Ron…2300 micrograms would be 2.3 mg, which is about as much sodium as is in large apple. That would be a lethally small dose….

      2. I shouldn’t have had seconds!

    3. Guys, it’s just Euro punctuation.

  6. But we all have to eat less tasty food so that some people will have a slightly easier time lowering their blood pressure.

    1. Not to worry. They’ve replaced the salt with sugar.

      1. I’m sure the results will be just as awesome as those of replacing fat with sugar.

      2. I thought salt and sugar cancel each other out.

    2. But we all have to eat less tasty food

      You have to eat less tasty food now? By which authority? I want to know who has removed your tasty food from the shelves and internet.

      1. I was engaging in humorous hyperbole. Many packaged convenience foods and condiments have less salt than they used to because of government pressure, and therefore taste less good to the majority of people who are not highly salt-sensitive.

        1. Add your own salts and spices. I do. Problem solved. Or don’t buy them. “The markets” will correct. Right?

          1. Yeah, I do too. It’s not a big deal. It just irks me because it didn’t happen because of market demand, but because of the threat of more government regulation. No one was complaining that ketchup was too salty, and low sodium versions of most products are available for those who do want less salt.

          2. Try adding salt to low-sodium V8 without involving a blender, or maybe dissolving it in another liquid first.

  7. The CDC asserts, “Your body needs a small amount of sodium to work properly, but too much sodium is bad for your health.

    And salt intake recommendations by the gov’t are far too low. I’ve read/heard plenty that suggests the dangers of too little salt outweigh the dangers of too much.

    1. That “small amount” something around 200 g (not mg). That’s kind of a lot of sodium.

    1. That’s not the only thing you sprinkle on the thing with which you tinkle.

  8. It’s incredble how gullible people used to be about nutrition. Not like today when we know for a science fact that guzzling fatty meat is fucking amazeballs and even looking at a carbohydrate is enough to kill you.

    1. Someone* needs to up their probiotic intake.

      *That someone is Hugh.

      1. He needs to get some of that yogurt that helps Jamie Lee Curtis poop.

        1. I already got some. It was too damned expensive to get new, so I had to buy it used from Jamie.

          1. Fruit on the bottom?

            1. Fruit on the bottom?

              What is Hugh’s preferred sexual position?

              1. Hugh’s position on sex is he’s agin’ it!

                1. if God had intended for us to sex, He wouldn’t have created Pokemon Go.

                  1. You can do both, Hugh.

  9. I’m sure all comorbidities were controlled for just like in the NEJM study where reduced salt intake was correlated with reduced caloric intake. But since when has caloric input ever shown a correlation with health?

  10. Saw the little salt shakers on the menu for the first time the other day. I took that as an endorsement to choose one of those items.

    1. That’s nice of them to tell you which food will taste better.

      1. Too bad nobody has a choice any more. The other day I had to go through a salt rape-scanner at Sizzler. I still feel violated. Poor me. Where’s my safe place?

        1. Relax, man.

          Restaurants and food producers are being pressured into lowering salt content in foods. I know that salt is still readily available to those who want it. It’s just a bit of fun.

          Although, the FDA could take away salt’s GRAS status and then who knows? I don’t thin kit’s likely, but stupider crap has happened.

          1. Thanks for harshing my victim-buzz, Zeb.

  11. Unless the experiment was designed to contol and block out other influencers to high blood pressure I don’t think it is particularly valuable work. Not that the government should be doing this type of study anyway for the purposes of justifying social engineering. But, if the conclusion of the study is just people that don’t put a lot of salt on their fat laden cheeseburgers don’t have lower BP than a person who puts some salt in their veggies, who really cares? But if these types of studies encourage the gov to get out of our lives then I don’t really care if the study is flawed or not.

    1. I just like having my wildly liberal use of salt justified.

      1. I just don’t like my crazy ass decision not to use salt brought into question!

  12. James Freeman quoted an article that you wrote in 2000 about Earth Day in the Wall Street Journal’s Best of the Web column. It didn’t sound like anything you have written recently. Surprising

      1. I didn’t mean that as an insult, oh great an powerful defender of all writers at Reason

    1. W: Thanks for letting me know. I didn’t know that Freeman had quoted me. I try to report and write new ideas and new discoveries. Doom gets boring. In any case, for those who can get behind the paywall here’s the WSJ link.

  13. Is it bad that the ball cap I wear when I go to the gym has a salt crust on it when the sweat dries?

    1. No, that’s a good thing. It’s why I can’t wear black t-shirts to work.

    2. Only if you lick it.

    3. Fact: $park? wears this ball cap backwards, and when he turns it around, it’s still backwards.

      1. Pssh. I wear my cap up high and sideways. Because thug life, yo.

  14. Yes, we need some kind of screening test for salt sensitivity. For some of us, salt DOES raise our blood pressure. My blood pressure soars when I eat a normal amount of salt, even with medication. I had to figure this out on my own because my doctor can’t or won’t test for it?like all other MDs, he just tells everyone with hypertension to cut the salt, even though most of them won’t benefit. The minerals they mention are important, too?I didn’t get my blood pressure under control until I started taking magnesium supplements. Again, I had to figure this out on my own. My doctor never mentioned magnesium deficiency as a possible cause.

  15. My blood pressure went down to almost normal when I quit drinking, quit smoking, and lost 35lbs.

    I still put salt on my bacon.

    1. Smoking, drinking, and obesity are certainly the major causes of high blood pressure. On the other hand, there are fat, smoking, drinking people with hypertension whose blood pressure would be fine if they cut back on salt or took mineral supplements. Doctors need to make an effort to sort out who is who.

  16. I’m relatively new to cooking from scratch and do it a few times a week now (it’s a midlife crisis, I’m told). If there’s a consistent problem with my cooking, it’s overseasoning. I use kosher salt and season when the recipe calls for it, but even after tasting at every step, somehow at the end it often turns out too salty. I think I’m slowly learning how to handle it better, and often just skipping one of the seasoning steps seems to make things turn out ok. Any advice? My chef sister couldn’t even help. It’s just, like, instinct man.

    1. Any advice?

      Yeah. Use less salt.

      It’s just, like, instinct man.

      I suppose. People ask me how I am able to save money. I tell them that I don’t spend it. They usually give me blank stares. Their instinct is to spend money, and they never save any.

      So if your instinct is to put too much salt on your food then it will always be too salty. Just like my soon-to-be-ex wife will always be broke because her instinct is to spend all her money.

    2. Seriously though? Don’t add salt until the very end. You can always add more, but you can’t take it away.

      1. But professionals use a lot of salt and insist that you season at nearly every step. Certainly if there’s meat involved you need to season before cooking. The rule of thumb I’ve heard is use as much salt as possible before it becomes too salty, and if I get that right it does turn out mighty tasty. But it’s still vague advice.

        1. Professionals do lots of things that non-professionals can’t do. That is why they are professionals and you are not.

          With few exceptions, beef and pasta water coming to mind, you can get away with waiting until the end to salt.

          If you insist on salting at every step, use a minuscule amount, and then add more at the end if it isn’t enough. That is what I do. And I am a former professional cook. I do software now. It pays a lot better and I don’t stink at the end of my shift.

      2. I think adding salt earlier for more solid things helps get it well distributed and absorbed. But for soups and sauces, tasting and adding more until it’s just right is the way to go. Soups really need just the right amount of salt. It’s amazing what a slight addition of salt can do for mouthfeel and flavor.

    3. My advice is, unless there’s some reason to think salt must be completely in solution, treat it as a surface effect.

      That’s where you taste it, and you can liberally salt the outside to get more salt flavor than trying to get the same salt flavor by permeating the entire body of the dish.

      I.e., when practicable, salt to taste at the end.

  17. *Press release said “grams,” but as astute readers noted, it’s really micrograms. Fixed.

    It’s really milligrams.

    2 grams is the presumed healthy amount.

    1. MP: Yes it is. Thanks for the correction. Fixe in the article now. Haste makes mistakes.

  18. This is like the saltiest chat room ever.

  19. Salt helps water conduct electricity. I often wonder if that’s why one study showed that it helps people with mitral-valve prolapse. Stossel did a 20/20 story on the salt-is-bad myth several years ago. Bad science and collectivism is another reason I don’t want politics mixed into my health care!

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