For decades, we’ve been told that a low sodium diet will help to prevent or improve hypertension, that is, high blood pressure as well as drop excess weight. That said, a new study has cast some doubt on the effectiveness of this strategy when it comes to losing those pounds.
This is not to say that everyone should instantly give up on believing that reducing sodium in a diet that contains too much could have a positive impact on health. However, it does call certain assumptions into question and offers the opportunity to take a second look at a previously accepted rule.
What Did the Researchers Learn About a Low Sodium Diet?
Researchers found that when adults with high blood pressure followed a low sodium diet, they experienced reduced thirst and urine volume and, yes, blood pressure. However, it did not change the metabolic energy needs of those individuals. This helps to support previous claims that reducing sodium could make it easier to lose weight.
This means that while it is still often recommended that hypertension patients follow a low sodium diet to help control their blood pressure, its benefits won’t extend to fat reduction.
The belief that a low sodium diet would help to achieve better weight loss may have resulted from the fact that it helps to reduce water retention. When water is retained in the body’s tissues, it can make an individual appear heavier than he or she actually is. That said, the weight is merely water and is not fat. Therefore, when the water retention is eased through a low sodium diet, it can make it appear that fat is being lost when it is actually just excess fluids.
When the water retention is eased through a low sodium diet, it can make it appear that fat is being lost when it is actually just excess fluids.
Where Was the Study Conducted?
The study was conducted at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) by a team led by assistant professor Stephen Juraschek, MD, PhD. The results are in direct conflict of a number of previous studies which had suggested that changing eating habits to reduce sodium levels could indeed influence fat loss.
That said, these researchers determined that when adult hypertension patients follow a low sodium diet, there wasn’t any meaningful change in their rate of fat burning, that is, their metabolic energy need.
The paper on this study was published in the Hypertension journal. The findings continue to support that this type of eating strategy is meaningful in hypertension management. It’s important not to increase your sodium intake based on these findings, if your doctor has recommended that you reduce it. If you’re not sure how much salt is too much, speak with your doctor for your own personalized recommendations.