The more you salt your dishes, the more you increase the risk of dying prematurely: what this study reveals

A statistical study, published in the journal of the European Society of Cardiology, seems to show that the more you salt your dishes, the more you increase the risk of dying prematurely. But that’s not really the problem!

American researchers from Tulane University in New Orleans analyzed the medical data of 501,379 volunteers, followed in the Biobank British. They dissected their eating habits (they had been regularly asked by questionnaire whether they salted their food sometimes, often, always or never) and their urine analyses, in particular their sodium and potassium levels. They then looked for correlations between their salt intake and the risk of dying prematurely.

Their calculations show that 28% of the 18,474 premature deaths recorded (which occurred before the age of 75) are attributable to the addition of salt in the diet. Premature deaths accounted for 3% of deaths among those who never salt their dishes, but 6% of those who always salt them. However, the authors of the study also note that these premature deaths concerned less people whose urine turned out to be rich in potassium, suggesting that potassium could counteract the deleterious effects of sodium…

They therefore call for additional studies to establish more precisely the links between salt consumption and premature mortality. In this study, salt intake was not quantified. And, moreover, salt doesn’t just come from the salt shaker!

Neither too much nor too little

All prepared dishes, condiments, cheese, ham and cold cuts are full of it, not to mention sodas and bread: these processed foods account for 75 to 80% of dietary salt intake. If the high levels of potassium in the urine seem protective in this study, it is because they testify to a high consumption of fruits and vegetables, and therefore to a healthier diet!

Also, rather than asking people to put their salt shakers into oblivion, it would probably be more effective to force manufacturers to change their practices, as a Swedish researcher comments in the editorial that accompanies the article.

No question, of course, of completely eliminating salt, we need it to live from 2 to 3 g per day (i.e. 2 to 3 pinches only). But not too much is needed, at the risk otherwise of favoring the appearance of cancer, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends limiting total intake to 5g (i.e. 2g of sodium), and half as much for children…

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