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Panel finds no benefit in sharply restricting sodium

NEW YORK — In a report that undercuts years of public health warnings, a prestigious group convened by the government said there is no good reason based on health outcomes for many Americans to drive their sodium consumption down to the very low levels recommended in national dietary guidelines.

Those levels, 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day, or a little more than half a teaspoon of salt, were supposed to prevent heart attacks and strokes in people at risk, including anyone older than 50, blacks, and people with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease — a group that makes up more than half of the US population.

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Some influential organizations, including the American Heart Association, have said everyone, not just those at risk, should aim for that very low sodium level. The heart association reaffirmed that position Monday.

But the new expert committee, commissioned by the Institute of Medicine at the behest of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said there was no rationale for anyone to aim for sodium levels lower than 2,300 milligrams a day. The group examined new evidence that had emerged since 2005.

“As you go below the 2,300 mark, there is an absence of data in terms of benefit and there begin to be suggestions in subgroup populations about potential harms,” said Dr. Brian L. Strom, chairman of the committee and a professor of public health at the University of Pennsylvania. He said possible harms included increased rates of heart attacks and an increased risk of death.

The committee did not make any recommendations about how much people should consume.

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