Sodium and Chloride – How to strike the balance?

Reducing salt intake is one advice that goes out for all high blood pressure and heart patients.

It is a commonly known fact that taking in too much sodium, the key component of salt, raises risk for cardiovascular ailment, and thus cutting down on salt intake is an effective remedy.

There’s a flip side to this too. Significant reduction in salt intake lowers to levels of chloride, another constituent of salt. According to the latest study, low levels of chloride are linked to higher risk of cardiovascular disease and even death.

Hitherto, little had been known about the role of chloride in preventing cardiovascular troubles. Researchers at the University of Glasgow have found that low chloride levels in the blood act as an independent indicator of cardiovascular and death risk in people with high blood pressure.

The study
For the purpose of the study, researchers looked at health records of nearly 13,000 hypertension patients.

During the 35 year follow-up span, the participants were required to provide details of their salt intake.

A low salt intake cuts down on levels of chloride in blood too.

Researchers found that low levels of chloride in the blood were linked to a higher risk of death and cardiovascular disease. The findings revealed that the patients with the lowest level of chloride in their blood had a 20 percent higher mortality rate vis-à-vis patients who had higher levels of chloride in their blood.

“Sodium is cast as the villain for the central role it plays in increasing therisk of high blood pressure, with chloride little more than a silent extra in the background,” Dr Sandosh Padmanabhan of the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, said in a statement.

“However, our study has put the spotlight on this under-studied chemical to reveal an association between low levels of chloride serum in the blood and a higher mortality rate.”

“Surprisingly this is in the opposite direction to the risks associated with high sodium.”

Researchers speculate that chloride’s role in the physiology of the body makes it vital for maintain a healthy heart.

However, the researchers fall short of suggesting what the findings could mean for diet. Instead, they have called for further study to determine the association between chloride and potential health risks.

The findings of the study are reported in the journal Hypertension.