For the past century, people with weak hearts have been told to lower their salt intake, but until now there has been little scientific evidence behind the recommendation.
The largest randomized clinical trial to look at sodium reduction and heart failure reported results simultaneously in The Lancet and at the American College of Cardiology’s 71st annual scientific session over the weekend, and the findings were mixed.
Though reducing salt intake did not lead to fewer emergency visits, hospitalizations or deaths for patients with heart failure, the researchers did find an improvement in symptoms such as swelling, fatigue and coughing, as well as better overall quality of life.
“We can no longer put a blanket recommendation across all patients and say that limiting sodium intake is going to reduce your chances of either dying or being in hospital, but I can say comfortably that it could improve people’s quality of life overall,” said lead author Justin Ezekowitz, professor in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and co-director of the Canadian VIGOUR Centre.
Avoid anything in a bag, box or can
The researchers followed 806 patients at 26 medical centers in Canada, Australia, Colombia, Chile, Mexico and New Zealand. All were suffering from heart failure, a condition in which the heart becomes too weak to pump blood effectively. Half of the study participants were randomly assigned to receive usual care, while the rest received nutritional counseling on how to reduce their dietary salt intake.