Recently, Health Canada, the Canadian government’s public health department, announced new sodium reduction efforts despite the latest scientific evidence. Such efforts have been tried in other countries, such as South Africa without any success. Increasing pressure on food manufacturers with ‘voluntary’ sodium reduction targets goes against a 2013 recommendation by Hypertension Canada to raise the minimum level of sodium consumption from 1,500 to 2,000 mg per day as well as research by Canadian health expert Dr. Andrew Mente PhD, MA, of McMaster University.
Dr. Mente and his team conducted the largest ever epidemiologic study of the impact of sodium intake on blood pressure, cardiovascular disease risk, and mortality in the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study. “We found that regardless of whether people have high blood pressure, low-sodium intake is related to more heart attacks, strokes, and deaths compared to average intake,” he said. Dr. Mente’s research study included over 100,000 individuals from 18 low, middle and high-income countries on five continents.
Currently, Health Canada recommends a maximum daily allowance of 1,500 mg of sodium per day. There is no population on earth that consumes so little sodium and no scientific justification for such a recommendation. According to Professor Jan A. Staessen, MD, PhD, who leads the Research Unit Hypertension and Cardiovascular Epidemiology at the University of Leuven in Belgium, “Of US adults, only 9 percent currently consume less than 2,300 mg/day and just 0.6 percent have a sodium intake of less than 1,500 mg/day, rendering current sodium recommendations the most aggressive lifestyle intervention ever planned in the history of mankind.”
Health Canada reported that the average Canadian currently consumes 2,760 mg of sodium a day, but according to Dr. Michael H. Alderman, MD, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, this is at the very low end of the healthy range for worldwide sodium consumption and lowering it further could cause harm. “More than 30 studies, with more than 400,000 participants, have established that optimal survival is realized by those whose intake is between 2,800 and 5,000 mg of sodium per day. There is no evidence of a superior health outcome at intakes less than 2,000 mg/day compared with those in the usual range. There is no scientific justification for any effort to modify either current general clinical practice or population sodium diet,” he said.
“For a very long time, the Salt Institute has stressed the importance of fully considering all of the scientific evidence related to the failed policy of salt reduction,” said Lori Roman, President of the Salt Institute. “It is discouraging to see this taking place because ultimately it will be the consumer that suffers.”