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A large international study conducted in 17 countries and recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found the advice given by doctors to their heart patients and others with regard to sodium has been WRONG.
Conventional advice given by most Western doctors and even published by the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion – part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – has recommended that those under 50 years old limit their sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day, and those over 50 limit their sodium consumption to less then 1,500 milligrams per day.
The recent study, conducted by nearly 400 scientists around the world, followed 156,424 people between the ages of 35 and 70 years old living in 628 cities and villages in Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, India, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Zimbabwe.
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Urinary sodium levels tested
Within this study, the researchers measured urinary sodium and potassium levels among 101,945 people from the five continents by sampling fasting urine in the morning. The urine samples were analyzed and compared with the medical history and prescription history of each subject.
The researchers especially focused upon any history of cardiovascular disease and death among the subjects, correlating the sodium and potassium levels with health history.
The researchers continued to follow the subjects for an average of 3.7 years after the initial samples were taken and analyzed.
Cancer patients were eliminated from the study, and other known predictors of heart disease and death were accounted for.
The researchers found that consuming less than 3,000 milligrams of sodium per day was associated with a 27 percent increase in cardiovascular disease and death.
Consuming between 3,000 milligrams and 6,000 milligrams of sodium each day was found to be associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and death.
Consuming more than 6,000 milligrams per day was associated with a 15 percent increase in cardiovascular disease and mortality.
Remember that current guidelines have been limiting sodium consumption to 1,500 milligrams for those over 50, and less than 2,300 milligrams for those 50 or younger.
And the bottom line of this study finds that consuming between 3,000 and 6,000 milligrams of sodium per day decreases ones risk of heart conditions and death while consuming less than 3,000 and more than 6,000 increases risk. More specifically, the research found that more than 7,000 milligrams per day increases risk significantly.
Why the mistake?
Why has the medical industry been so off about this? In their paper, the study authors suggested that current sodium intake guidelines are based primarily upon shorter studies and study models that don't apply directly to the general population.
This current study removes those elements, allowing for a direct understanding between how much sodium people are consuming, how much is healthy, and how much is not healthy.
Because the kidneys carefully manage the body's levels of sodium and potassium, urinary samples provide an accurate way to monitor someone's total sodium consumption.
Yet this confirms previous research
As I reported several years ago, despite the notion that previous findings have been to the contrary, a 2011 study from from Albert Einstein School of Medicine followed more than 360,000 human subjects and another from Canada's McMaster University followed 4,729 human subjects, correlating their sodium levels with cardiovascular health.
These studies found, respectively, that sodium levels less than 2,500 milligrams per day and 3,000 milligrams per day increased the incidence of heart disease among the participants.
Hypertension mostly unrelated to sodium consumption
In addition to these studies, research from University of California more than three years ago also found that sodium guidelines were mistaken.
This research was a compilation of clinical studies including a 2009 U.C-Davis study that included 129 studies and 50,060 human subjects tested with 24-hour urinary sodium excretion examinations.
This research also compiled research analyzed the various studies regarding salt intake and hypertension, along with heart conditions in general.
The central assumption of conventional medicine is that higher sodium levels within the blood that lead to hypertension are produced by higher consumption of sodium.
The research found that the body self-adjusts and regulates the sodium intake within the body, yielding healthy levels. This regulation takes place through the discharge of sodium outside of healthy levels.
Confirming the above studies, this compilation of research also found that healthy sodium consumption ranges between 2,622 to 4,840 milligrams per day.
This research concluded that the decreased rates of hypertension in the U.S. were not connected with reduced sodium intake, as some have proposed. In fact, their statistics found that sodium consumption has been increasing with the increased consumption of processed foods.
Sodium appetite explained
According to the researchers, the body maintains its internal sodium levels by increasing what they called "sodium appetite." When the body senses its internal sodium levels are too low, we will naturally seek more sodium in our foods.
Ayurvedic medicine has long described such a notion as the body seeking foods with saltier flavor – called salt cravings to balance the rasa system.
But if more sodium is consumed than needed, the body will automatically adjust its internal sodium levels by excreting more sodium in the urine. The body uses what doctors refer to as the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system to balance sodium levels.
Modern refined salt and sodium balance
The recent study also found that consuming more than 1,500 milligrams of potassium per day was associated with a significantly reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality, while consuming less than 1,500 milligrams was linked to increased risk.
This brings into focus a larger view, that of balancing sodium intake along with other macro and trace minerals. This is important because our sodium levels and its impact upon our health also relates to our consumption of many other important minerals such as potassium, calcium, boron, zinc and many others.
Modern refined salt, however, does not help balance our mineral consumption. Because white salt is stripped of other minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and many trace elements, consuming refined salt helps distort our mineral requirements – with a leaning towards sodium, with sodium chloride out of proportion with what typically accompanies the compound in nature.
Adding insult to injury, modern salt often contains numerous chemical additives such as tricalcium phosphate, silica dioxide, sodium ferrocyanide, ferric ammonium citrate and/or sodium silico-aluminate.
Consuming natural sea salts or rock salts provide a pathway of consuming a better balance of trace minerals. Just be aware that iodine is a typical additive of modern salt that is often deficient in today's diets.