We recently wrote about how avoiding five specific bad habits can significantly extend your life. Now, a new meta-analysis published in The BMJ adds further weight to the argument for eating less salt and being healthier. According to the meta-analysis of 133 clinically randomised trials, lowering salt intake reduces blood pressure – even in individuals who are not yet at risk of hypertension-related conditions. This is important because heart disease is the number one global killer and high blood pressure is the leading cause of heart disease. Furthermore, hypertension is also the leading cause of stroke, heart failure and kidney disease, highlighting how potentially beneficial a low slat diet could be for many people. Interestingly, the research found that the greater the reduction in salt intake, the greater the benefit to blood pressure. At present, U.S. government guidelines advise Americans to not consume more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of salt per day as part of a healthy eating pattern. However, the vast majority of U.S. adults are eating more sodium than they should -- average of more than 3,400 mg each day. One of the biggest problems is the amount of salt that is contained in manufactured foods, which is usually added to enhance flavour, texture and colour, as well as improve longevity. So even if you don’t reach for the salt shaker at every mealtime, you could still be consuming too much. It’s good to get into the habit of checking the foods you buy to see how much they all contain. After all, just a small reduction could significantly improve your health and reduce your risk of early mortality. Speaking about the findings of the research, lead author Feng He, a researcher at Queen Mary University of London, said: “The totality of evidence in the JACC review and this latest BMJ research shows that reducing our salt intake will be immensely beneficial.”
It's been widely accepted for some time that a high-salt diet may increase a person's risk of having a stroke or a heart attack. But now a new study has found that a low-salt diet may also be just as dangerous. Published in The Lancet, the findings of the study suggest that people who have a low salt or sodium intake may be increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease, compared to those who have an average intake. In fact, the study, which was conducted by researchers at McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences, says that the only people who should look to reduce their salt consumption are those with high blood pressure. Furthermore, the researchers say that current salt consumption guidelines may be too low, and should be reviewed going forward. At present, it is recommended that Americans consume no more than 2,300mg of salt each day, which is about 1 teaspoon. However, around 90% of US adults exceed this recommendation on a regular basis, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released earlier this year. On the other hand, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends people eat between 5 and 6g of salt each day. The lead author of the study, Andrew Mente, said: "While our data highlights the importance of reducing high salt intake in people with hypertension, it does not support reducing salt intake to low levels." Despite the study focusing on 130,000 people across 49 countries, its methods have been criticised by experts, while others have questioned the study's findings. The bottom line? Salt should be consumed in moderation, and people with high blood pressure should seek specific medical advice to find out what is best for them.
When you consider that two-thirds of our bodies are comprised of water, it makes sense that drinking enough of it each day is extremely important for our health. But a new study has now discovered that we can control our weight, and reduce our sugar, sodium and saturated fat intake by simply drinking more plain water. Led by Prof. Ruopeng An, from the University of Illinois, the study used National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2005-2012 information to analyse how water intake affected the health of some 18,300 adults living in the US. The researchers found that people who increased their water consumption - even by just one to three cups daily - lowered their total energy intake by 68-205 calories and their sodium intake by 78-235g a day. Furthermore, they consumed 5-18g less sugar and 7-21g less cholesterol. Professor An said: "This finding indicates that it might be sufficient to design and deliver universal nutrition interventions and education campaigns that promote plain water consumption in replacement of beverages with calories in diverse population subgroups without profound concerns about message and strategy customisation." The findings of the study were published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. So if you're trying to lose weight or improve your overall health, it might be as simple as drinking more water on a day-to-day basis.
When it comes to eating out, many people assume that a nice meal in a restaurant would be considerably healthier than grabbing something at a fast food outlet. However, according to a new study, eating at either establishment can lead to far more calories being consumed than eating a home-prepared meal. Published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study found that Americans who ate out, whether at a full-service restaurant or fast food outlet, typically consumed 200 calories more per day than when they ate at home. Study author Ruopeng An said: "These findings reveal that eating at a full-service restaurant is not necessarily healthier than eating at a fast-food outlet. In fact, you may be at higher risk of overeating in a full-service restaurant than when eating fast food." The study analysed the eating habits of some 18,098 Americans using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for 2003-2010. Perhaps surprisingly, individuals who ate at full-service restaurants consumed significantly more cholesterol than those who ate at home – up to 58mg per day more in some cases. Despite the increased cholesterol intake, though, people who ate at full-service restaurants also consumed more healthy nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids and potassium. The study also revealed that eating out at restaurants increased a person’s daily sodium intake. This is also worrying as many Americans already consume above the upper recommended sodium limit on a daily basis and this poses several health concerns, such as heart disease and hypertension. So the next time you’re in a restaurant and deciding what to eat, think twice before ordering something that is going to have a detrimental effect on your health.