ASSESSMENT OF EVIDENCE
Committee on the Consequences of Sodium Reduction in Populations
Food and Nutrition Board
Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice
Brian L. Strom, Ann L. Yaktine, and Maria Oria, Editors
INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by Contract/Grant No. 200-2011-38807 between the National Academy of Sciences and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
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Suggested citation: IOM (Institute of Medicine). 2013. Sodium intake in populations: Assessment of evidence. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
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COMMITTEE ON THE CONSEQUENCES OF SODIUM REDUCTION IN POPULATIONS
BRIAN L. STROM (Chair), George S. Pepper Professor of Public Health, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia
CHERYL A. M. ANDERSON, Associate Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of California, San Diego
JAMY ARD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Prevention, Wake Forest Baptist Health, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
KIRSTEN BIBBINS-DOMINGO, Associate Professor of Medicine and of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco, and Co-Director, San Francisco General Hospital, California
NANCY R. COOK, Professor in the Department of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
MARY KAY FOX, Senior Researcher, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts
NIELS GRAUDAL, Senior Consultant, Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, Denmark
JIANG HE, Joseph S. Copes Professor of Epidemiology, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana
JOACHIM IX, Associate Professor of Medicine, Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, California
STEPHEN E. KIMMEL, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia
ALICE H. LICHTENSTEIN, Gershoff Professor of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts
MYRON WEINBERGER, Professor Emeritus of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis and Editor-in-Chief, Journal of the American Society of Hypertension
MARIA ORIA, Study Director
ANN L. YAKTINE, Study Director
JULIA HOGLUND, Research Associate
COLIN F. FINK, Senior Program Assistant
ANTON BANDY, Financial Officer
GERALDINE KENNEDO, Administrative Assistant
LINDA D. MEYERS, Director, Food and Nutrition Board
ROSE MARIE MARTINEZ, Director, Board on Population Health and Public Health Practices
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report:
MICHAEL H. ALDERMAN, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
DAVID B. ALLISON, University of Alabama, Birmingham
LAWRENCE J. APPEL, Johns Hopkins University
GLENN M. CHERTOW, Stanford University School of Medicine
JOHANNA T. DWYER, Tufts Medical Center
SHIRIKI K. KUMANYIKA, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
JOSEPH LAU, Brown University
DAVID A. MCCARRON, University of California, Davis
SUZANNE P. MURPHY, University of Hawaii, Manoa
SUZANNE OPARIL, University of Alabama, Birmingham
DONALD B. RUBIN, Harvard University
ANNA MARIA SIEGA-RIZ, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
JUDITH S. STERN, University of California, Davis
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by LYNN R. GOLDMAN, George Washington University, and SUSAN J. CURRY, University of Iowa. Appointed by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
Heart disease and stroke are major cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) and leading causes of death for both men and women in the United States. Major risk factors of CVD, such as high blood pressure, high levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and smoking, are frequently found among the U.S. population. Other factors, however, such as a poor diet, also can contribute to high blood pressure and disease risk. For more than four decades, controversies have surrounded the contribution of sodium consumption as a risk factor for noncommunicable diseases, including CVD. Numerous domestic and international organizations and governments have advised populations against consuming high levels of sodium. Investigators have applied models based on blood pressure decreases to predict the number of deaths that would be saved in the general population from reducing sodium consumption. Although most biomarkers have limitations as indicators of risk of adverse health outcomes, the evidence for blood pressure as a surrogate endpoint for risk of CVD and stroke is widely recognized and accepted. Sodium, however, might execute its functions through various processes in addition to blood pressure. Thus, any strategy to reduce the consumption of sodium should include studies that demonstrate an association between sodium consumption and direct health effects. Although there is agreement that sodium policies should be guided by research based on direct health outcomes, unfortunately, randomized controlled trials and observational studies that have looked at the association between sodium and direct health outcomes are few and have been interpreted in many
different ways. These differences underscore the difficulties in accurately measuring the long-term health effects of diets or individual nutrients that are consumed in the context of a diet.
In 2005, as part of its work on Dietary Reference Intakes, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) conducted a review of the scientific literature on the association between sodium and health effects, including both intermediate and direct health outcomes. Since that time, more data have been collected but the controversies continue and have slowed down the ability to implement sodium policies that are consistent with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Adding to these longstanding controversies is emerging evidence on potential adverse effects of a too-low dietary sodium intake for some population subgroups. The need for an in-depth examination of the scientific literature became obvious. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asked the IOM to convene an expert committee to examine the designs, methodologies, and conclusions of this emerging evidence and to comment on the implications of their findings for population-based sodium-reduction strategies. Of particular interest to the agency was assessing benefits and adverse outcomes of reducing sodium intake in the population and in relevant subgroups that have been described as being particularly at risk. These subgroups are individuals with hypertension and prehypertension, those 51 years of age and older, African Americans, and those with diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and congestive heart failure. The committee conducted an extensive review of the peer-reviewed literature. A public workshop also was conducted, which provided an opportunity for experts outside the committee to present some of the most controversial data and for stakeholders to describe their positions on relevant issues. The contributions of the workshop speakers and additional information gathered by the committee were invaluable for its deliberations.
I am deeply indebted to the committee members who generously gave their time and effort to complete this task in a very short time. Their diversity in expertise and backgrounds and in-depth discussions shed light on highly complex scientific issues. In addition, on behalf of the committee, I would like to thank the IOM staff, study co-directors Ann L. Yaktine and Maria Oria, research associate Julia Hoglund, and senior program assistant Colin Fink, who worked tirelessly to complete this task. My gratitude also goes to the Director of the Food and Nutrition Board, Linda D. Meyers, and the Director of the Board on Population Health and Public Health Practices, Rose Marie Martinez, for their guidance and support during the entire study.
It is my hope that the conclusions of this committee will add to current discussions about sodium intake and health and will help future policy makers as they continue to decide and implement sodium strategies that will benefit public health.
Brian L. Strom, Chair
Committee on the Consequences of
Sodium Reduction in Populations