When you reach for a shaker and sprinkle some salt on your meal, you might think you’re just adding some extra flavor to your food. However, it turns out you may also be subtracting years from your life, according to the new findings.
In a study recently published by European Heart JournalThe diets of more than 500,000 people were looked at and compared. When those behind the study observed who died before the age of 75, they found that people who added salt to their food had a 28% increased risk of premature death compared to those who didn’t use the extra salt.
Moreover, men of 50 years of age who added salt to their food shortened their lives by an average of 1.5 years while women of the same age who took extra salt shortened their lives by about 2.28 years.
“Our study provides supporting evidence from a new perspective to show the adverse effects of high sodium intake on human health, which remains a controversial topic,” Lu Chi, MD, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, for Medscape Cardiology. “Our findings support the advice that reducing salt intake by reducing salt added to meals may benefit health and improve life expectancy.”
“This study underscores the importance of balancing sodium and potassium in the diet,” Amanda Lynn, MS, RD, CDCES, founder of Healthful Lane Nutrition confirms. “Many people who eat a Western diet consume too much sodium and too little potassium. A prolonged imbalance in these electrolytes can lead to increased blood pressure that can cause damage to the heart, eyes, brain, and kidneys.”
Lane also notes that “multiple guidelines” — such as the 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 want to reduce the amount of salt in your diet, Lynn notes that sodium is often found in processed foods, which is why “choosing less processed options can help reduce your overall salt intake.”
Additionally, Lin suggests replacing salt with acid, saying, “Using different acidic sources such as apple cider vinegar, rice wine vinegar, and citrus fruits can add great sources of flavor without adding salt.”
Desirée O is a freelance writer covering lifestyle news, food, and nutrition, among other topics. Read more