The current scientific understanding does not justify the reduction of the daily salt intake for healthy people, according to the European Salt Producers' Association, EuSalt.

Reacting to a European Food Safety Authority announcement at the end of June, in which EFSA concluded that the current salt intake increases blood pressure, a major risk factor in heart disease and premature death, EuSalt said today (Monday) that it sticks to the conclusions of its International Conference held earlier this year; that the existing medical guidelines are obsolete and that the healthy population in general does not have any benefit from reducing salt.

EuSalt referred to the Jürgens & Graudal Study of 2004 which concludes that people with normal blood pressure do not benefit from a reduced salt intake. Reduced salt intake in people with elevated blood pressure has a useful effect to reduce blood pressure in the short-term. However, long-term trials of the effect of reduced dietary sodium intake on blood pressure, are required to establish whether this is a useful treatment strategy. EuSalt refers also to the Hooper et al Study, which states that, although a low sodium diet helps in preventing elevated blood pressure following withdrawal of antihypertensives, long-term maintenance of low sodium intake for individuals is difficult. The overall clinical benefits (or harms) of a reduced sodium diet are unclear, further research is urgently needed to explore this, EuSalt said.

The He & MacGregor study also shows a minimal fall in blood pressure in healthy people who cut down their salt intake by 4 g/day for four weeks.

EuSalt also referred to the Dutch Professor Dr Diederick Grobbee who, at EuSalt's conference - presented the findings of the Rotterdam Study underlining that there is no reason to believe that there is a causal link between salt intake on the one hand and mortality and cardio-vascular events on the other. The research results of Grobbee's study will be published later this year.

EFSA said that the available data are not sufficient to establish an upper level for sodium from dietary sources. EuSalt concludes that there is urgent need to establish reliable data collection and monitoring systems in all European countries. Further scientific discussions and political decisions need a sound data basis about the salt intake, changes in salt intake and its health outcomes especially re blood pressure.

EuSalt believes that EFSA's conclusions of a reduced salt intake could lead to even more misunderstandings about the intake of sodium (salt). EuSalt stresses upon the importance of salt intake for the pregnant woman, the multimorbid elderly patient and the athlete. These categories need their salt intake; a reduced sodium intake represents a real danger for these people.

It is clear that salt is a vital and essential nutrient for everybody and that healthy people do not benefit from a reduced salt intake, EuSalt said.