Beliefs among researchers about the effect of salt on our health are as divisive as, say, the issue of immigration is to the slate of presidential candidates, according to a new meta-analysis of recent studies. While more than half believe that salt is evil when it comes to our health, 33 percent claim that the mineral is not bringing down humanity—at least when it comes to heart disease, stroke and death.
For the research, a team including Ludovic Trinquart, Columbia University epidemiology merit fellow at the Mailman School of Public Health, systematically reviewed 269 academic reports published between 1979 and 2014, including primary studies, meta-analyses, clinical guidelines, consensus statements, comments, letters and narrative reviews. More than half of them were published since 2011, suggesting that interest, if not consensus, is rising about salt’s role in our health.
Though the science seems conflicting, health officials, including the World Health Organization, continue to recommend lowering salt consumption. Last fall, New York became the first U.S. city to require chain restaurants to label foods high in sodium. While the debate continues among researchers regarding salt’s role in our diet, the public has shifted its ire from salt to a new nutritional Public Enemy No. 1: sugar.