The frequency with which we reach for the saltshaker hasn’t changed in the last five decades, a study in the November issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition finds. After analyzing 38 studies between 1957 and 2003 that detected the amount of sodium over 26,000 study participants excreted in urine — the best reflection of how much sodium people ingest — researchers found that people consistently consumed approximately 3,700 milligrams of sodium daily over the past 50 years.
International studies investigating salt intake have arrived at the same conclusion. In an accompanying journal editorial, Dr. David McCarron says that humans may need a set amount of salt and are hardwired to seek it. In his own 2009 study that analyzed the urine samples of 19,151 people in 33 countries over a span of 24 years, Dr. McCarron found the average daily sodium intake remained steady at 3,726 milligrams daily across diverse populations and diets.
“These are remarkable studies,” notes ACSH’s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. “While many groups are charging that the increased consumption of processed foods has increased sodium ingestion, this data proves them wrong — sodium intake hasn’t changed at all.”
“The fact is that both national and international studies have confirmed that people consume just a certain amount of sodium — not too much less, not too much more,” adds ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross. “That seemingly unarguable and immutable fact should be considered when goverment health advisories about salt are issued.”