Most of us eat about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day. Downsizing our sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams daily would have major health benefits, slashing 16 million of the nation’s 68 million cases of hypertension and saving $26 billion health care dollars, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In 2004, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) agreed, advising anyone over age 50, of African-American descent or with high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease or diabetes to limit their sodium to 1,500 milligrams. That’s nearly half of all Americans. The rest of us were advised to keep our numbers below 2,300 milligrams, the amount in roughly a teaspoon of salt.
Then in May of 2013, in an apparent about-face, the IOM released a report concluding that too little sodium may be equally problematic for some people, particularly those with congestive heart failure. Even more startling, it announced there was no solid evidence that people with diabetes, kidney disease or cardiovascular disease would benefit from the previous 1,500-milligram cap and instead stated that 2,300 milligrams would be more appropriate. However, if you read the report’s fine print you’ll find that the IOM admits that the data used to make the updated 2013 recommendations contains gaps in its methodology. What’s more, shortly after its announcement, one of the main studies that the IOM report relied on was retracted by the journal Heart, leaving us more confused than ever.