On the Merits of Moderation: Salt, Cholesterol, and Vitamins

At excellent overview from NY Times that explains that strict reductions in salt and cholesterol may be detrimental and that additional vitamins may be harmful. Here’s the link: Dash of Salt Does No Harm

Here’s an excerpt:

The second New England Journal of Medicine study did just that. In addition to looking at high sodium diets, it also compared the health outcomes of those who had very low sodium diets. What they found was worrisome. When compared with those who consumed 3-6 grams per day, people who consumed less than 3 grams of sodium per day had an even higher risk of death or cardiovascular incidents than those who consumed more than 7 grams per day.

This result would be shocking if we in the medical community hadn’t seen it before. But we have. In 2011, researchers published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Asssociation after following 3,681 people over almost a decade. They, too, found that excessive salt intake was associated with high blood pressure. They also found that a low-sodium diet was associated with higher mortality from cardiovascular causes….

Why experts and organizations feel the need to go from one extreme to the other is unclear. But it’s unfortunately something we do far too often in medicine.

Take cholesterol. Initially, people believed that the evidence was pretty compelling that high cholesterol was bad for you…Eggs were shunned. But later research showed us that egg consumption had no relationship to cardiovascular disease for most people. In fact, a majority of people’s serum cholesterol level has little to do with how much cholesterol is in their diet. Today we use medications to lower our cholesterol levels. Once again, though, our sights keep shifting lower…

We have to learn that when one extreme is detrimental, it doesn’t mean the opposite is our safest course.