What is sodium?

Sodium is found naturally in foods and is often added to processed and prepared foods. Table salt is a compound called sodium chloride. It is 40% sodium and 60% chloride by weight. One teaspoon of salt contains 2300 mg (milligrams) of sodium. The amount of sodium in a food is listed on the food label.

How much sodium is recommended each day?

According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, all people age 50 and younger including children, should reduce their sodium intake to no more than 2300 mg (milligrams) a day. The recommendation for sodium intake needs to include all of the sodium consumed in a day. This includes natural sodium in foods, sodium added in processing, sodium added when cooking, and the sodium added by the use of condiments (salt, soy sauce, and others) at the table. Adults age 51 and older, African Americans of all ages, individuals with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease should reduce their sodium intake even more- to 1500 mg a day (2012 Dietary Guidelines for Americans). Your healthcare provider can advise you about your sodium needs based on your present and past medical history.

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How much sodium is in the typical American diet?

The average American consumes about 4,000 milligrams or more of sodium a day, considerably more than recommended. For more information about the sodium content of selected foods, click on the USDA National Nutrient Database for Sodium listed according to sodium content or listed alphabetically.

How does sodium intake affect bone health?

It is well known that high sodium intakes increase sodium loss in the urine and that calcium is lost along with the sodium. The questions is, “Does calcium loss in the urine result in bone loss and increase the risk of getting osteoporosis? ” The answer is not known. In short-term studies of postmenopausal women, higher salt intake was linked to greater rates of bone breakdown and increased bone loss. However, it is not clear whether this would happen over a longer period of time. There is some evidence that healthy individuals may adapt to higher calcium losses in the urine by absorbing more calcium from food. This adaptation may be limited in certain populations such as postmenopausal women. It may also be limited by factors such as low dietary calcium intakes, too little vitamin D, or conditions that cause poor intestinal absorption. The good news is that when a person has the recommended amount of calcium in his or her diet, the potential negative effect of sodium on bone is of much less concern.

Are there recommendations about sodium intake for healthy bones?

At this time, additional research is necessary before specific recommendations about sodium intake can be made for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Until we have more information about the relationship between sodium and bone health, it makes sense to follow the recommendations of 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to limit sodium intake to 2300 mg a day (or 1500 mg a day for certain populations as indicated above). For strong bones, it is necessary to get the recommended amount of calcium and vitamin D each day. Eating a nutrient-rich diet with the recommended amount of calcium along with adequate vitamin D intake may help protect your bones from losses associated with excess sodium intake.