For millennia, the importance of sodium in our diets has been known. More recently, given the over-production of sodium laced foods; the ratio of sodium to potassium has come into focus. Few studies have looked at how much salt we need to stave off disease and most focus on trying to limit our salt intake.
O’Donnell et al 2011 attempted to measure the health effects of salt. They measured almost 29,000 individuals salt intake (via 24hr fasted urine sample) over the course of 56 months.
The original hypothesis had been that those with a dietary sodium level of 2-4g/day would be the healthiest. After looking at the statistics on cardiovascular disease, stroke and heart attacks, the results should a surprising ‘J’ curve. The healthiest were individuals who ate 4-6g/day, far higher than the original hypothesis proposed. Those eating in excess of 7g/day had an increase in hospitalizations for all CV events and those eating less than 3g/day had an increase in mortality for all CV events.
This study does not give one free reign to eat salt in excess, but a minor adjustment in sodium intake may be in order given that athletes are known to lose salt through sweat. Longer-term data and reproductions are in the works but this data is thought provoking and should not be ignored.