Salt Might Not Be As Bad for You As Previously Thought, Study Finds

Salt might not be all that bad for your health, according to a new study.

Sodium consumption is linked to raised blood pressure and stroke, but these effects don't occur often outside of countries like China, where people tend to have a higher salt intake, research from the Population Health Research Institute of Hamilton Health Sciences and McMaster University in Canada, found.

An essential mineral for life, levels of sodium that are too low can actually lead to more heart attacks and deaths, according to the findings published in the Lancet medical journal. The research suggests that a diet that includes a moderate amount of sodium, between 3 to 5 grams per day, may help sustain cardiac health. "Our bodies need essential nutrients like sodium, but the question is how much," Andrew Mente, a professor at the institution in Canada, said in a statement.

Reducing salt intake to less than 5 grams per day (about 1 teaspoon) will save around 2.5 million lives every year

— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) August 9, 2017

The World Health Organization recommends capping sodium intake at 5 grams a day to reduce blood pressure. The American Heart Association suggests even more limited consumption of salt, recommending no more than 2.3 grams per day.

No nation has ever succeeded at meeting either of these guidelines, the authors of the study said. And their research shows that it might not be necessary to cut down on salt in countries like the United Kingdom and the United States.

The study looked at more than 90,000 people in 21 countries. It reported blood pressure and cardiovascular outcomes based on estimated sodium and potassium intake calculated from fasting urine samples. Study subjects were followed for an average of 8 years.

The researchers observed an increased cardiovascular risk only in communities where the average intake was more than 5 grams per day. But only about 5 percent of people in developed countries have sodium intake over this amount. The study found that there is no increase in risk in those who consume between 3 to 5 grams per day.

"Our study adds to growing evidence to suggest that, at moderate intake, sodium may have a beneficial role in cardiovascular health, but a potentially more harmful role when intake is very high or very low. This is the relationship we would expect for any essential nutrient and health," Mente said.

New research from Canada suggests that salt is not as bad for human health as previously thought. BSIP/UIG via Getty Images