Evidence has shown that excess sodium/salt intake raises blood pressure (hypertension), which is an established risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. In addition, excess sodium/salt intake has been associated with stomach cancer, osteoporosis, edema, gastro-esophageal reflux disease, headache, angina, left ventricular hypertrophy, arteriosclerosis, and autoimmune problems.
A 2009 review, The Preventable Causes of Death in the United States: Comparative Risk Assessment of Dietary, Lifestyle, and Metabolic Risk Factors, estimated that each year 102,000 premature preventable deaths are caused by excess salt intake. The weight of this evidence has led health organizations to recommend a sharp reduction of sodium/salt intake.
Reducing sodium/salt intake leads to increased health and decreased medical bills. It also leads to lower profits for powerful food interests, which may explain a number of poorly researched media reports articles that have recently appeared. What is happening is that a comment from a May 2013 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report is being misinterpreted to give the impression that 1) reducing sodium/salt intake might carry some risk and 2) that major health organizations no longer agree on sodium/salt intake recommendations. This has led to headlines like these:
“No Benefit Seen in Sharp Limits on Salt in Diet”
“Doubts About Restricting Salt”
“Report questions reducing salt intake too dramatically”