Naples, FL- The issuance today of new “voluntary” sodium reduction mandates by the FDA is tantamount to malpractice and inexcusable in the face of years of scientific evidence showing that population-wide sodium reduction strategies are unnecessary and could be harmful. This effort will limit the food choices of Americans, not increase them as the FDA claims. It will make our food less safe and endanger public health.
The FDA’s Dietary Guidelines Committee has repeatedly ignored a loud chorus of researchers who advise that population-wide sodium reduction is unnecessary and/or potentially harmful. Three Cochrane Collaboration reviews conclude that there is insufficient evidence to warrant population-wide salt reduction. The FDA is also completely ignoring their own CDC-sponsored 2013 Institute of Medicine report that specifically did not support sodium reduction.
Contrary to the government’s recommendations, evidence indicates people on low sodium diets place themselves at risk. The government disregarded peer-reviewed research showing that low-salt diets can lead to insulin resistance, congestive heart failure, cardiovascular events, iodine deficiency, loss of cognition, low birth weights, and higher rates of death. Studies show dangerous side effects from lowering sodium below 3,000 mg/day.
It is unacceptable that federal government officials chose to ignore strong evidence from multiple researchers that indicates people on low sodium diets have an increased risk of cardiovascular death. Dr. Michael Alderman, editor of the American Journal of Hypertension and former President of the American Society of Hypertension, has repeatedly cited his concern that a population-wide sodium reduction campaign could have unintended consequences. “They want to do an experiment on a whole population without a good control,” Alderman says.
The government’s recommendations are so unnaturally low those consumption levels are unheard of in any country in the world. The Guidelines of 2,300 mg/day of sodium are drastically lower than the world average of 3,600 mg/day. A study of almost 20,000 people in 33 countries shows the normal range of consumption is 2,800 to 4,800 mg/day. This is constant regardless of where people get their food, either from home cooked meals or prepackaged meals and restaurants.
The latest evidence demonstrates that there is a safe “range” of salt consumption that results in a lower risk to the overall population. According to this research, the lower end of this safe range begins around 3,000 mg and extends upwards of 5,000 mg sodium per day. Americans consume about 3,400 mg sodium on average – at the lower end of this safe range.
Most recently researchers from McMaster University’s School of Medicine, found that people on low sodium diets have an increased risk of cardiovascular death. This study, which analyzed over 100,000 participants in dozens of countries, was no fluke but part of a growing body of research warning against sodium reduction efforts.
The history of government issued “voluntary” sodium reduction targets in other countries shows that they are an abject failure. Food producers are placed under intense pressure to abide by the arbitrary limits despite the use of the term “voluntary” and even when food producers do manage to safely lower the sodium in their foods they almost never meet the targets. Even when they do this does not in fact reduce population wide sodium consumption as the body naturally craves a certain amount of sodium to maintain optimum health. Consumers simply add in more of their own table salt or consume more food to make up the sodium deficiency, worsening the obesity epidemic.
Most disturbing however is the statement made by Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, denying that there is any evidence to the contrary of the FDA’s position. This is an attack on science itself as well as common sense.
Americans should be extremely skeptical. It is difficult to imagine a more flawed process and outcome than the Dietary Guidelines on sodium. The medical world, media and public are increasingly questioning the faulty recommendations. Hopefully the growing outcry will force the government to right this wrong before more people are harmed. Meanwhile, regulations and actions based on the faulty guidelines should be dismissed for what they are—malpractice.
Salt Institute letter to USDA/HHS with references
The IOM report that the government wants to pretend doesn’t exist
The Salt Institute is a North American based non-profit trade association dedicated to advancing the many benefits of salt, particularly to ensure winter roadway safety, quality water and healthy nutrition.