Adding salt to your meal at the table is associated with a shorter life expectancy and a higher risk of early death, according to a new study.
The study looked at more than 500,000 people at the UK’s Biobank who responded to a questionnaire between 2006 and 2010 about their salt habits and how often they added salt to their food.
Before you start revisiting all your favorite recipes: The researchers were just looking at how much salt was added after the meals in question were cooked, according to findings published in the European Heart Journal in July.
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The researchers followed the participants about nine years later and found that the more salt people added to their meals, the greater the chance of early death. However, people who consume high levels of salt can lower their risk by eating more fruits and vegetables, the study said.
The American Heart Association recommends that adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of salt a day — but notes that the “ideal limit” is 1,500 milligrams a day. Consuming too much salt can raise blood pressure, which in turn can cause heart disease, stroke and kidney disease, the heart association said.
The UK’s National Health Service recommends that adults limit their sodium intake to about a teaspoon of salt a day.
There’s a long history of scientific research showing that a high-salt diet is risky, but this study adds a new level of caution against adding more to your plate, said the study’s lead author, Lu Qi, a professor of epidemiology at Tulane University School. . of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans.
“More evidence, especially that from clinical trials, is needed before the public takes any action,” he said. “However, our findings are in line with previous studies, which consistently show that high sodium intake is negatively related to various health outcomes, such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease.”
Going further to reduce
Even if you don’t add salt to your own dish, you may be consuming more sodium than you should.
A 2020 meta-analysis of 133 randomized controlled trials on reducing salt intake found strong evidence that reducing dietary sodium lowered blood pressure in those with existing hypertension — and even in those not already at risk.
One of the main culprits of high sodium levels in our diets? Processed foods, which often use salt to add flavor, texture, color and preservation. More than 70% of the sodium Americans eat comes from what was added by the food industry to products later purchased in stores or restaurants, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“Most of my patients don’t add salt to the dinner table, but they don’t realize that rolls, canned vegetables, and chicken breast are among the worst (high-sodium) culprits in the US,” said Dr. Stephen Juraschek, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School who researches sodium and hypertension.
Juraschek was not involved in the Biobank study or the 2020 meta-analysis.
But salt makes everything taste so good, you might be thinking.
There are strategies, however, for maintaining a vibrant palate and creating appealing dishes with less salt, said Carly Knowles, a registered dietitian who is also a private chef, licensed doula, and author of the cookbook “The Nutritionist’s Kitchen.”
Knowles recommends cooking at home — where you have more control over the salt shaker while making your meal — more often, reading the ingredients on your products, substituting unsalted herb and spice blends, and focusing your diet on minimally processed foods.