A leading cardiovascular scientist has caused uproar in the medical community after claiming in his new book that people should eat more salt.
Dr James DiNicolantonio, of Saint Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute, Missouri, said official guidelines on salt consumption are all ‘wrong’.
Writing in The Salt Fix, he claimed listening to recommendations and having too little will instead make you fat and ruin your sex life.
But a range of experts have criticized the book and said it ‘undermines’ established evidence that could leave many at risk of heart attacks.
Louis Levy, head of nutrition science at Public Health England, told The Guardian: ‘Diet is now the leading cause of ill health.
‘By advocating a high-salt diet this book is putting the health of many at risk and it undermines internationally recognized evidence that shows a diet high in salt is linked to high blood pressure, a known risk for heart disease.
‘Our work with the food industry to cut the salt in food has already seen consumption in the UK reduce by 11 per cent and is seen as the model to aspire to globally.’
What are the guidelines?
Current British daily guidelines limit adults to 2.4g of sodium, roughly 6g of salt – slightly less than a teaspoonful.
Similar strict stances have been adopted by bodies including the World Health Organization, American Heart Association and Public Health England.
But Dr DiNicolantonio, who has examined more than 500 medical papers about salt, criticized the limit imposed on adults.
In a piece he previously wrote for the Daily Mail, he said: ‘There was never any sound scientific evidence to support this low salt idea.’
A ‘dangerous myth’
He has previously described the link between excessive salt intake and high blood pressure as a ‘dangerous myth’.
However, numerous studies over the years have proven such a link between the two and have been used as evidence to back-up such low salt intake recommendations.
Dr DiNicolantonio, associate editor of the British Medical Journal’s Open Heart, previously said: ‘The orthodox medical view on salt is based on a straightforward hypothesis.
‘But as with so many simplistic health theories, this is based on a fundamental misunderstanding, compounded by faulty science.’
Campaigners argue that Dr DiNicolantonio’s claims are based on just a few studies that are all ‘misplaced’.
Graham MacGregor, who persuaded the Government to take action on reducing salt levels in ready-meals, told the newspaper: ‘He is entitled to his views but it is all based on a few studies and they are misplaced.
‘It you look at the totality of the evidence on salt, it is much stronger than for sugar or saturated fat or fruit and vegetables – in a positive way.
‘It’s overwhelming because we’ve got all the epidemiology, migration studies, treatment trials, mortality trials and now outcome trials in countries.’
But a study by Boston University in April found people consuming less salt actually had higher blood pressure, prompting a call for the guidance to be changed.
Researchers said the advice to eat less salt was too simple and ignored the fact that salt can raise hormone levels in the body which keep blood pressure low.