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Dissidents and dietary sodium: concerns about the commentary by O’Donnell et al.

30 Dec 2016

O’Donnell et al. claim that there are few individuals with extreme perspectives on both sides of the sodium controversy and that there are ‘few areas in public health that elicit more strident, polemic interpretations of the research literature’.1 Yet numerous independent health and scientific organizations have reviewed the totality of evidence and have reached very consistent recommendations to reduce dietary sodium.2 Further, mainstream health practitioners and scientists, including the World Health Organization, have strongly supported reductions in dietary sodium.3–5 In Canada, where O’Donnell and his co-authors have academic affiliations, 26 national health and scientific organizations endorsed a position to reduce dietary sodium to < 2300 mg/day, the federal and provincial governments set a target to reduce dietary sodium to 2300 mg/day by the end of 2016 and leaders of organizations representing most health care professionals and about 70% of the Canadian population supported a regulatory approach to reducing dietary sodium: Hypertension Canada [https://www.hypertension.ca/images/pdf/Sodium_Fact_Sheet_2016_Final2.pdf], accessed 30 March 2016; and Consumer Science in the Public Interest [http://cspinet.org/canada/pdf/on-line.salty-to-a-fault.2013-update.pdf], accessed 30 March 2016.6 The Canadian Hypertension Education Program recommends considering reducing dietary sodium to 2000 mg/day to reduce blood pressure.7 High levels of support are seen in many other countries.4 World Action of Salt and Health, an organization of scientists and health professionals concerned about excess dietary sodium, has over 500 members from 95 countries [http://www.worldactiononsalt.com/about/], accessed 31 March 2016. There are similar local networks of concerned scientists in other areas of the world [ALASS, http://www.alass.net/], (accessed 31 March 2016).4 Most national hypertension organizations and the World Hypertension League and the International Society of Hypertension support dietary sodium reduction.8,9 Consumers International (an umbrella organization of 240 national civil society organizations in 120 countries) supports reductions in dietary sodium as a key project [http://www.consumersinternational.org/our-work/food/ke y-projects/salt-reduction/], (accessed 1 April 2016). I am not aware of any credible health, scientific or civil society organization that supports the views expressed in O’Donnell’s commentary or those of other dissenting scientists.1 The debate is generated by a small but highly vocal group of dissenting scientists advocating against mainstream science and public health.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in International Journal of Epidemiology