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Cutting back on salt raise your cholesterol?

By Deborah Kotz
Globe Staff / November 14, 2011

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Cutting back on salt consumption can lead to a drop in blood pressure, but that health benefit could be offset in some people by a small increase in cholesterol levels. That’s the troubling finding of a study published last week in the American Journal of Hypertension, which analyzed evidence from 167 studies measuring the effects of sodium reduction.

It adds to a growing body of research questioning the value of cutting back on salt if you’re otherwise healthy and don’t have high blood pressure. A study published last May in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that healthy people who ate the least amount of sodium didn’t have any health advantage over those who ate the most, and they actually had a slightly higher risk of dying from heart disease.

Another review analysis in July found that lowering salt intake led to lower blood pressure levels but not fewer deaths from heart attacks and strokes - even in people who already had established heart disease.

This latest review of the current research points once again to the paucity of knowledge when it comes to predicting the benefits of cutting back on salt consumption.

If you’re in the government’s higher-risk category, you should make efforts to lower your salt intake, and even if you’re not, you shouldn’t shake the salt to your heart’s content. If you aren’t carefully reading food labels, you’re probably getting far more sodium than your body needs because most processed foods have too much of it. And if you’re worried about high cholesterol, realize that you’ll probably benefit more from losing excess weight and reducing saturated fat in your diet than giving up any low-sodium diet you may be following to reduce your blood pressure.

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