DALLAS – Excessive sodium consumption is having a dire impact on global health, killing about 1.65 million people every year, according to a new study released Thursday.
The research published in the New England Journal of Medicine adds important evidence to a larger recent discussion about how much sodium people should consume and what kind of impact that has on health, said American Heart Association President Elliott Antman, M.D.
“We have new research indicating that the blood pressure effects of excess sodium can be directly related to cardiovascular disease risk,” said Antman, who is also a professor of medicine and Associate Dean for Clinical/Translational Research at Harvard Medical School and a senior physician in the Cardiovascular Division of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Antman said the new study by Dariush Mozaffarian M.D., Dr.P.H. and colleagues was “a staggering finding.”
“About 1 in 10 cardiovascular deaths were estimated to be attributed to sodium intake of greater than 2,000 milligrams per day,” Antman said. “This is a level exceeded by 99.2 percent of the world’s adults, on average. In the U.S. alone, almost 57,600 annual cardiovascular deaths are attributed to sodium intake at this level.”
The American Heart Association recommends less than 1,500 milligrams per day for ideal heart health, but most Americans consume more than twice that much.
Another study released Thursday, called PURE, questions the link between excessive sodium intake and health risks. However, Antman said PURE contained several substantial methodological issues that limit its usefulness for drawing conclusions about the relationship between sodium intake and health outcomes, and for guiding public health recommendations.
PURE is an observational study that attempts to link dietary sodium intake with subsequent cardiovascular diseases, Antman said. “Interpreting the results of these types of studies was particularly challenging because results can be highly dependent on the types of data collected (and not collected) and the types of analyses performed,” he said.
Antman said these issues include inaccurate measures of sodium intake and inclusion of sick people. The issues are detailed in the American Heart Association’s February 2014 Science Advisory.
“The AHA has been concerned about the quality of these studies and strongly believes that other types of evidence, particularly the well-documented clinical trial relationship of sodium intake and blood pressure, provide the best scientific basis to guide policy,” Antman said.
“The bulk of the available evidence to date shows reduced sodium intake is associated with reduced blood pressure, which itself is associated with a reduction in cardiovascular event,” Antman said. “Along with improving overall diet, controlling weight, and increasing physical activity, lowering sodium intake is key to lowering blood pressure in the general population and improving blood pressure control in those with hypertension.”
The American Heart Association and numerous major national and international public health and scientific organizations have carefully and repeatedly reviewed the evidence and will continue to recommend reducing sodium intake.
The AHA recently launched a new campaign to help consumers lower their sodium intake, and recently more than 30 leading scientists affirmed that the full scope of the evidence continues to anchor the scientific basis for reducing sodium intake.
“Excess dietary sodium intake exacts a tremendous toll on our societies and economies around the world,” Antman said. “Now is a time for action, not hesitation.”
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