Low-Salt Diet Study Stirs Up Debate

The Story

Contradicting previous research, a new study found that consuming less salt increased the likelihood that people die of heart disease. The study drew criticism from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with one official saying, "At the moment, this study should be taken with a grain of salt." Ha.


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Discussion Starters

  • According to critics, the study was flawed, partly because of the small sample size and relatively young subjects, who, at an average age of 40, "did not have high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease." In what ways do you see these issues affecting study results?
  • If you were a doctor, would you change your previous advice to patients and now encourage them to stop their low-salt diet? Why or why not? If not, what else would convince you that people should change their diet?

Assignment Ideas

  • Working independently, find the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on May 4, 2011, through your school library. In class, be prepared to discuss your search process: what tools did you use to find the article? As a group, discuss the search approaches that proved to be most successful.
  • Read the full study. Identify what, if any, caveats the authors provide to temper their conclusions.
  • Write a letter to the authors of the study to describe criteria for identifying subjects for primary research. What recommendations do you have for their future research?