Salt and cardiovascular disease: Insufficient evidence to recommend low sodium intake

Martin O'Donnell, Andrew Mente, Michael H. Alderman, Adrian J.B. Brady, Rafael Diaz, Rajeev Gupta, Patricio López-Jaramillo, Friedrich C. Luft, Thomas F. Lüscher, Giuseppe Mancia, Johannes F.E. Mann, David McCarron, Martin McKee, Franz H. Messerli, Lynn L. Moore, Jagat Narula, Suzanne Oparil, Milton Packer, Dorairaj Prabhakaran, Alta SchutteKaren Sliwa, Jan A. Staessen, Clyde Yancy, Salim Yusuf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Several blood pressure guidelines recommend low sodium intake (<2.3 g/day, 100 mmol, 5.8 g/day of salt) for the entire population, on the premise that reductions in sodium intake, irrespective of the levels, will lower blood pressure, and, in turn, reduce cardiovascular disease occurrence. These guidelines have been developed without effective interventions to achieve sustained low sodium intake in free-living individuals, without a feasible method to estimate sodium intake reliably in individuals, and without high-quality evidence that low sodium intake reduces cardiovascular events (compared with moderate intake). In this review, we examine whether the recommendation for low sodium intake, reached by current guideline panels, is supported by robust evidence. Our review provides a counterpoint to the current recommendation for low sodium intake and suggests that a specific low sodium intake target (e.g. <2.3 g/day) for individuals may be unfeasible, of uncertain effect on other dietary factors and of unproven effectiveness in reducing cardiovascular disease. We contend that current evidence, despite methodological limitations, suggests that most of the world's population consume a moderate range of dietary sodium (2.3-4.6g/day; 1-2 teaspoons of salt) that is not associated with increased cardiovascular risk, and that the risk of cardiovascular disease increases when sodium intakes exceed 5 g/day. While current evidence has limitations, and there are differences of opinion in interpretation of existing evidence, it is reasonable, based upon observational studies, to suggest a population-level mean target of <5 g/day in populations with mean sodium intake of >5 g/day, while awaiting the results of large randomized controlled trials of sodium reduction on incidence of cardiovascular events and mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3363-3373
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean heart journal
Issue number35
StatePublished - Sep 14 2020


  • Cardiovascular
  • Diet
  • Prevention
  • Salt

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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