Growing scientific data is linking the consumption of more salt with an increased risk of memory loss, stroke, and senility. For example, the November 8, 2011 issue of Neurology reported the results of a study that followed 23,752 older (mean age 64) people for 4 years. At baseline, all the subjects had tested normal for cognitive function. They also were assessed for stroke risk using the Framingham Stroke Risk Profile, which predicts the risk of stroke based on the person’s age, blood pressure, education level, history of heart disease (including atrial fibrillation and other heart rhythm problems), evidence of left ventricular hypertrophy, smoking and diabetes status. During the next 4 years 1,907 of them developed loss of memory function and/or thinking problems. Of the 25% who scored the highest on the stroke risk profile (12 or more pts) 15% developed signs of senility compared to only 3% of the 25% whose initial stroke risk score was the lowest. The study found that older age, increased systolic blood pressure and left ventricular hypertrophy were the only stroke risk factors independently predictive of future major loss of cognitive function.
In Canada, another study assessed diet and physical activity level in 1,262 initially older adults. Over the next 3 years, the researchers found that the third that consumed the most salt (>3091mg sodium/day) were significantly more likely to lose cognitive function during the next 3 years compared to the third that consumed the least salt (<2263mg sodium/day). Those who were the least active and consumed the most salt experienced the greatest loss of brain function. However, those who were sedentary but also consumed a diet with less salt showed no decline in cognitive function (1). Another study done in New York City and presented at the American Stroke Association International Conference in Los Angeles last February followed 2,657 middle-aged and older adults for 10 years. Over the 10 years, 227 subjects suffered an ischemic stroke. The result showed a strong association between salt intake and the risk of a subsequent stroke. For every 500mg increase in dietary sodium, the subjects were 18% more likely to suffer a stroke. The researchers noted that 21% of subjects were initially consuming more than 4,000mg of sodium, so they may have cut their risk of stroke by more than 90% had they reduced their sodium intake to less than 1500mg per day as is now recommended for most people by the US Dietary Guidelines, Center for Disease Control, and American Heart Association.
By James J. Kenney, PhD, FACN
1 Fiocco AJ, et al. Sodium intake and physical activity impact cognitive maintenance in older adults: the NuAge Study. DOI: 10.1016/j. neurobiolaging. 2011.07.004
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Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. But after learning that the quality of a croissant directly varies with how much butter it has, Judy sought to challenge herself by coming up with recipes that were as healthy as they were tasty.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.