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Low-Salt Diet May Not Be Best for Heart
Date:6/4/2008

Study finding contradicts conventional wisdom

WEDNESDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- Surprising new research suggests that a diet low in salt may be worse for your heart than eating lots of salt, but don't start eating potato chips just yet.

"No one should run out and buy a salt shaker to try to improve their cardiovascular health. But we think it's reasonable to say that different people have different needs," said study author Dr. Hillel W. Cohen, an associate professor of epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.

The study, published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, doesn't confirm that a low-salt diet itself is bad for the heart. But it does say that people who eat the least salt suffer from the highest rates of death from cardiac disease.

"Our findings suggest that one cannot simply assume, without evidence, that lower salt diets 'can't hurt,' " Cohen said.

Cohen and his colleagues looked at a federal health survey of about 8,700 Americans between 1988 and 1994. All were over 30, and none were on special low-salt diets.

The researchers then checked to see what happened to the volunteers by the year 2000.

Even after the researchers adjusted their statistics to account for the effect of cardiac risk factors like smoking and diabetes, the 25 percent of the population who ate the least salt were 80 percent more likely to die of cardiac disease than the 25 percent who ate the most salt.

Cohen doesn't discount that salt could be bad for some people. However, "the main argument for reducing salt in prevention of heart disease has been that there's a relationship between higher sodium and higher blood pressure," he said. "There have been many studies of this relationship, but when one actually looks at the numbers, the average blood pressure difference associated with quite a bit of sodium intake is
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