There is growing confusion associated with the Government salt reduction strategy – a strategy which some experts believe is both misleading and potentially dangerous, largely because the research on which the Department of Health bases its guidelines is inadequate and out of date.
People are told that reducing salt consumption is critical to long-term health. However, an increasing number of influential medical studies, including the Institute of Medicine and the Cochrane Collaboration, are questioning the evidence of any long-term health benefits from restricted salt diets, raising important questions about conventional thinking on salt and health.
Labelling salt as a uniquely problematic substance in our diet is particularly controversial. Salt is an essential nutrient which maintains the potassium/sodium balance and is critical to the overall functioning of every cell in the human body.
The Government salt reduction strategy appears to be based on evidence which is inadequate and out of date. This evidence has consistently failed to demonstrate conclusively that salt is harmful to the normotensive population, whilst studies published over recent years suggests that over-restricting salt intake may increase our likelihood of developing cardiovascular health problems or even dying prematurely. Yet, despite over a decade of this disputed universal sodium reduction policy, the Government has undertaken no studies to check whether the policy is either effective, or safe.
This is why concerns about the Government’s salt reduction strategy are growing and is why we are urging the Government in the strongest possible terms to undertake new, population wide studies to determine the real effects of salt consumption on our health. Until then, the Government will be continuing to take risks with public health by its failure to acknowledge the essential role salt plays in maintaining a fit and healthy body.
The public is increasingly asking “what should be our relationship with salt?” People are confused by the conflicting evidence. The war on salt has continued for decades, without firm evidence of any long-term health benefits from restricted salt diets. Much of current available data is derived from dietary surveys alone and there is still much to learn about this mineral which is so vital to life.
Sodium’s relationship to blood pressure is modulated by many dietary and non-dietary factors, including the interaction and balance of a range of essential minerals. The role of salt within this process is still not fully understood. Impartial and carefully controlled studies are required to demonstrate clearly the safety and benefits of salt reduction.