IOM questions lowering sodium recommendation

Published on: May 15, 2013

An influential federal health organization -- the Institute of Medicine (IOM) -- said there is no real evidence supporting recommendations that Americans reduce their daily intake of sodium to under 2,300 mg.

Sodium, a key nutrient in table salt, has been shown to cause high blood pressure, or hypertension, in humans, which in turn increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Sodium retains fluids in the body, which causes the heart to work harder.

However, IOM, in a report compiled by health specialists and released May 14, said although a diet high in sodium does increase one's risk of heart problems, the evidence is "inconsistent" and "insufficient" to conclude that a diet low in sodium reduces that risk.

Indeed, the report said a diet too low in sodium could actually be harmful to health, even in population subgroups that are most at risk for heart problems.

Thus, the report said, the evidence on the "direct health outcomes" studied does not support recommendations for the general population to reduce sodium consumption under 2,300 mg per person per day and for the at-risk subgroups to reduce sodium consumption to 1,500 mg per person per day.

The report did call for more research into the association between levels of sodium consumption and health outcomes, both in the general population and the subgroups.

The report, commissioned by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), stands in stark contrast to an earlier IOM study's conclusion that Americans consume far too much sodium and that the Food & Drug Administration should establish "step-down" standards to gradually reduce intake from current to lower levels (Feedstuffs, April 26, 2010).

The step-down strategy is supported by CDC and the American Heart Assn.