Constantly adding salt to your food is not a good idea, says new study

Researchers at Tulane University have found that frequent addition of salt to food leads to premature death from causes such as heart disease, stroke, coronary heart disease and cancer.

Adding salt to foods was also associated with a reduction in life expectancy, according to a new study published in the peer-reviewed European Heart Journal.

The researchers wanted to find out whether the frequency of adding salt to foods affected death and life expectancy. He documented 18,474 premature deaths.

Dr. Lu Qi, a professor in Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and director of the university’s Obesity Research Center, said this is an unusual behavior given how often people add salt to their food.

“This study addressed a very specific behavior related to sodium intake,” said Qi, who led the study. “This means we can easily modify the behavior to reduce sodium intake.”

Early death, or are people just using more salt?

“I think the only findings are really people who are using more salt on their diet, they may have a higher BMI, they may have a less healthy lifestyle, and those things are associated with a higher risk of premature mortality. Conversely, putting salt on your food is more directly linked to obesity,” said Drew Hays, a registered dietitian and assistant professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, who was not involved in the study.

One expert says that eating more fruits and vegetables along with salt-rich spice blends is not a good option for high salt intake.

One expert says that eating more fruits and vegetables along with salt-rich spice blends is not a good option for high salt intake.

The researchers also noted an interesting finding about potassium: The risk decreased slightly in those who consumed the most fruits and vegetables because of the potassium.

The study included several limitations, including a lack of information on how much salt people added to food. In addition, the UK Biobank is voluntary, so the results are not representative of the general population, noted the researchers.

Qi said another limitation is that the reactions were self-reported.

“More concrete data must come from clinical trials,” he said. This “may provide better evidence to meet any science and health outcomes. In the future, clinical trials are needed to validate and confirm our findings.”

What is the healthiest salt substitute?

The study’s findings regarding potassium stood in for Joan Salz Blake, a registered dietitian nutritionist and clinical professor at the Boston University College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

“Once again, we have findings about the health benefits of consuming more potassium-rich fruits and vegetables in the diet,” said Blake, who leads the nutrition and health podcast “Spot On!” hosts.

She said that American adults are recommending at least two and a half cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit daily.

They also noted that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ dietary guidelines recommend less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day as part of a healthy eating pattern, but that, on average, Americans consume a little more than 3,500 milligrams daily.

She recommends no-salt seasoning blends for flavored foods as well as eating more whole fruits and vegetables.

“Produce will not only add flavor to your food … but it will also provide the health benefits of potassium,” she said. “It’s getting two health benefits for the price of one by making meal-time changes.”

For those wanting a salt substitute, Hays recommends a “controversial substitute” — monosodium glutamate, or MSG.

Some people have reported headache, sweating, facial pressure or tightness and other symptoms after eating it, but researchers have no clear evidence of a link between a commonly used flavor enhancer and these symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. Evidence not found.

Hayes said MSG does contain sodium, but people who use it don’t need as much because it’s so potent.

If possible, Hayes said people should try to eat half a plate of fresh fruits and vegetables, and not overlook whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.

“Think about making a plate that’s plant-forward,” she said.

How was salt studied?

The researchers defined premature death as death before the age of 75 and looked at data from 501,379 people participating in the Long-Term Biobank Study in the United Kingdom.

Urine samples were collected among 481,565 participants, but the researchers said urine tests are not the easiest measurement because a person’s salt intake can change daily.

The team analyzed questionnaire responses from participants and grouped them based on how often they said they added salt to food: never/sometimes, sometimes, usually or always.

They considered factors that could affect health outcomes such as age, gender, race, deprivation, body mass index, smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, diet and medical conditions and followed participants for an average of nine years.

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