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August 2014

Diets too Low in Salt as Harmful as Diets too High

A recent study suggests that consuming too little salt in the diet is just as, if not more, harmful than consuming too much.

In adults, the adequate intake (AI) of sodium is 1.5 grams daily, with a tolerable upper limit (UL) of 2.3 grams daily. Most people in North America consume sodium at levels much higher than recommended. Many experts believe that increased salt consumption is a risk factor for the development of high blood pressure. Too much sodium may also contribute to heart disease (stroke, heart failure), kidney disease, osteoporosis, and stomach cancer. While there are concerns about many people consuming too much salt, sodium is necessary for the function of nerves and muscles, as well as for fluid and electrolyte balance, and therefore too little salt is also a potential concern.

In a recent study, researchers analyzed urine samples from 101,945 people in 17 countries to assess the link between sodium intake and the risk of death and heart disease-related events. Sodium intakes were estimated through sodium measurements in the urine.

The researchers found that people who consumed 7 or more grams of sodium daily had an increased risk of death or heart disease-related events. The link between high sodium intake and death or heart disease was highest for people with high blood pressure. However, people who consumed less than 3 grams of sodium daily had an even greater risk of death or heart disease-related events, suggesting the need to ensure people do not drop sodium intake to extreme lows.

The authors concluded that sodium intake between 3 and 6 grams daily is linked to a lower risk of death or heart disease-related events. Daily intakes higher or lower than this range appear to increase the risk for death.

For information about salt, please visit Natural Standard’s Food, Herbs & Supplements Database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
  2. O'Donnell M, Mente A, Rangarajan S, et al. Urinary sodium and potassium excretion, mortality, and cardiovascular events. N Engl J Med. 2014 Aug 14;371(7):612-23.

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