NEW YORK (MainStreet) – There’s a lot of ambiguity out there about what is and isn’t good for you. One week there will be a study declaring the health benefits of red wine; a week later, it’s raising your risk of cancer. Dark chocolate, meanwhile, has been alternately declared as the cause of depression or a panacea to heart disease.
There’s never been much ambiguity about salt, though. Too much of it raises your blood pressure and thereby puts your heart at risk, so a low-salt diet is ideal for preventing heart disease.
Or is it?
A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that looked for a correlation between sodium intake and mortality by heart disease found something that flew in the face of the conventional wisdom: Over an eight-year period just 0.8% of people with the highest levels of sodium in their diets died of heart disease, compared to 4.1% of those with the lowest levels of sodium.
In other words, the people with the saltiest diets were four times less likely to die of heart disease than those who watched their salt intake. Yes, we’re confused too.
The study didn’t destroy all of the medical profession’s sacred cows, and it did confirm that increased salt intake was associated with an increase in systolic blood pressure – but for one reason or another that did not lead to a higher incidence of heart-related death.
The findings come on the heels of new guidelines from the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services advising drastic cuts in daily sodium intake, especially for older Americans and those with heart disease. While we’re not ready to dismiss the new guidelines (and the scientific consensus) based on one study, it does muddy the waters on what was once dogma in the medical community.