Studies that claim salt consumption aids in weight loss are wrong, study finds

BOSTON — If you’re trying to lose some of those extras pounds in 2020, a new set of research says you probably shouldn’t look to salt for help. A study by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston found that salt consumption doesn’t contribute significantly to weight loss. Making matters worse for all you salt lovers out there, researchers also validated the long-held belief that salt is a major contributing factor in the development of hypertension and heart disease.

A total of 150 million Americans suffer from high blood pressure, which can lead to many health problems, such as heart attack and stroke. It’s been widely believed for a long time that increased salt consumption stimulates thirst, which leads to greater fluid intake, ultimately increasing blood pressure. However, recent studies have come to contradictory findings; these projects have concluded that eating more salt doesn’t actually stimulate thirst, but instead promotes weight loss by adjusting the body’s energy needs.

Dr. Stephen Juraschek, an assistant professor of medicine at BIDMC, led this new set of research disproving the recent notion that salt helps with weight loss. Dr. Juraschek and his team found that reducing the consumption of sodium for adults with high blood pressure or hypertension did in fact influence feelings of thirst, urine volume, and blood pressure. The study also showed that cutting out salt didn’t affect their bodies’ metabolic energy needs, as was concluded in the aforementioned studies.

So, this most recent study supports the traditional belief that lowering sodium intake is critical to managing hypertension and disproves the idea that salt helps with weight loss.

Dr. Juraschek used data from the completed Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)-Sodium trial to examine the effects of low, medium, and high sodium intake on blood pressure in participants following either a typical American diet, or a healthy diet (the DASH diet). The DASH-Sodium trial was a randomized controlled-feeding study originally published in 2001.

The researchers’ secondary analysis of the DASH-Sodium trial revealed that reduced sodium intake didn’t affect how much energy participants’ bodies required to maintain a stable weight, but it did reduce the participants’ thirst. Also, urine volume was either unchanged or lower among those who reduced their sodium intake.

Participants with elevated blood pressure or hypertension saw decreased thirst, urine volume, and blood pressure when they reduced sodium intake. The researchers say this occurred without changing the energy required for the body to maintain a steady weight, indicating that eating more salt isn’t going to help with weight loss.

“Our study contributes meaningfully to this scientific debate and underscores the importance of sodium reduction as a means to lower blood pressure,” says Juraschek in a media release. “Public health recommendations aimed at lowering population-wide sodium intake for blood pressure should continue without fear of contributing to weight gain.”

The study is published in the journal Hypertension.