Eating Too Much Salt May Shorten Your Life, Study Says

Even a relatively small increase may raise your premature death risk.


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The results of a new study may leave you feeling a little salty. It says that even a relatively modest increase in sodium consumption may be associated with a higher risk of premature death.

The study considered baseline salt consumption to be about 1.5 teaspoons per day, or 3,600 milligrams. After that, the paper says, if you add another 1,000 milligrams per day—less than a half teaspoon, about the amount of salt in a tablespoon of soy sauce—your premature mortality risk climbs by up to 12 percent. That bump seems to hold steady for each additional half teaspoon eaten, too.

On the flip side, study subjects on a sodium reduction plan saw premature death risk drop by roughly 15 percent. The researchers did note in the paper that such a dip is not statistically significant, but it still suggests that there’s a benefit to curbing salt intake.

The paper was published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, and was led by a researcher from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The research team analyzed years of data from about 6,000 participants, each enrolled in one of two phases of the Trials of Hypertension Prevention study.

It’s worth noting that 3,600 milligrams of salt, the study’s consumption standard, is close to the average American’s daily intake (an estimated 3,400 milligrams per day), but it’s quite a bit higher than recommended. The latest federal dietary guidelines suggest limiting salt to 2,300 milligrams per day, and the American Heart Association suggests that, “for optimal heart health,” we should be eating no more than 1,500 milligrams per day.

The easiest way to reduce your salt intake? You’ve heard this before, but it bears repeating: Move away from processed and packaged products—nearly all of which contain sodium, and often way more than you’d think—and choose whole foods instead.