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Lately there has been a great deal of attention placed upon the amounts of sodium consumed in the average North American diet and the incidence of hypertension.
The controversy was been caused by an article written in The New York Times by a reporter who reported on the recent findings published by The Institute of Medicine regarding the policy of lowered sodium intakes. The article suggested that further reductions of sodium intakes below the recommended values of 2300 Mg. per day could not be supported with scientific evidence and were not helpful. Previously recommended new guidelines of 1500 Mg. of sodium per day have been proposed by the American Heart Association. This lower recommendation, as suggested was not supported in the article and therein lays the controversy.
The current average daily recommended intake of sodium is 2300 Mg. per day, but if you look at some recent work completed the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention, they found that specific populations of people could greatly benefit from further reductions in sodium from 2300 Mg. to 1500 Mg. (blacks and those who already have hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease) The research found that approximately 50% of those people who were over the age of two years could benefit from further reductions in sodium intake to 1500 Mg. per day. They also found that approximately 85% of the American population was consuming more that 2300 Mg. of sodium per day!
In my opinion, the recommendation of lowering the daily sodium intakes from 2300 Mg. to 1500 Mg. in susceptible groups makes a great deal of sense. However, what the press reporting fails to recognize is that the majority of North Americans are not even close to achieving the recommended daily amounts of sodium. The average North American consumes 3400 Mg. of sodium per day! This is an average amount, with many people obviously consuming much more sodium every day.
I think there are some people who are missing the point in this case!
In general terms, the decrease in sodium intake to 1500 Mg. from 2300 Mg. has been shown to be beneficial to specific groups of people who can best realize the greatest benefit of lowered sodium intake, (those whom are salt sensitive). However, the vast majority of people need to reduce their current intakes of sodium by at least 1 Gm. per day just to meet the recommended intake for sodium. In my opinion, there is a definite benefit to lowering sodium intake to the desired, recommended levels. In some cases, the amounts of sodium need to be drastically reduced in individuals who are experiencing chronic disease, are salt-sensitive or have hypertension which is not being adequately controlled.
Here in Canada, as public health issue, this is quite significant because the amounts of sodium currently eaten greatly exceed our needs. The typical western diet is loaded with sodium; even some of the “so called” weight-loss foods and health foods can have large amounts of sodium. Certainly, I feel that the talking points should focus around trying to get some people to meet the current sodium recommendations. Obviously this can be accomplished by reading labels, asking questions and trying to consume a diet composed of fresh food, devoid of processing, refining and additives. Try to also limit the consumption of fast food, junk food, frozen entrees and canned foods.
Although fast food outlets need to publish the amounts of sodium contained in their foods….people also need to also limit their intakes of such foods they understand are higher in sodium.
Dr. Kevin. J. McLaughlin
Clinical Director: The Vitality Project