When you reach for the shaker and sprinkle some salt over your meal, you might think that you're merely adding some additional flavor to your food. However, it turns out that you might also be subtracting years from your life, according to new findings.
In a study that was recently published by the European Heart Journal, the diets of over 500,000 people were considered and compared. When those behind the study noted who was dying before the age of 75, they found that people who added salt to their food increased their risk of premature death by 28% compared to those who didn't use additional salt.
Beyond that, men who were 50 years old and added salt to their food shortened their lives by an average of 1.5 years while women the same age who ate extra salt shortened their lives by around 2.28 years.
"Our study provides supportive evidence from a novel perspective to show the adverse effects of high sodium intake on human health, which is still a controversial topic," senior author, Lu Qi, MD, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana, told Medscape Cardiology. "Our findings support the advice that reduction of salt intake by reducing the salt added to meals may benefit health and improve life expectancy."
"This study underscores the importance of sodium and potassium balance in the diet," Amanda Lane, MS, RD, CDCES, Founder of Healthful Lane Nutrition confirms. "Many individuals consuming a Western diet consume too much sodium and too little potassium. A prolonged imbalance of these electrolytes can lead to increased blood pressure which can cause damage to the heart, eyes, brain, and kidneys."
Lane also notes that "multiple guidelines"—such as Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Mediterranean Diet—"recommend limiting sodium to 2,300 milligrams or one teaspoon per day of table salt."
If you would like to reduce the amount of salt in your diet, Lane notes that sodium is often found in processed foods, which is why "aiming to choose less processed options can help limit overall salt intake."
Additionally, Lane suggests acid to replace salt, saying, "Using different acid sources like apple cider vinegar, rice wine vinegar, and citrus can add great sources of flavor without adding salt."