Limiting Sugar Lowers Diabetes Risk, But New Study Finds You May Want to Lay Off the Salt, Too

There are many well-known dietary tips that can help you prevent type 2 diabetes. Perhaps the best-known guideline is to limit sugar intake. You can also cut back on processed foods and alcohol. A new study finds you may want to think twice about adding some extra salt to your meals, too.

Research recently published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings investigated how long-term sodium intake influences type 2 diabetes risk. Using health data from more than 400,000 people in the UK, the team found that the more often a person included a dash of salt in their meal, the more risk they were taking on, as even those who only sometimes added salt were more apt to develop diabetes.

Person adds salt to their eggs

Dr. Lu Qi, lead author and professor at Tulane University, says, “We already know that limiting salt can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and hypertension, but this study shows for the first time that taking the saltshaker off the table can help prevent Type 2 diabetes as well.”

To gauge the link between salt and diabetes risk, the researchers examined health and diet data from just over 400,000 people within the UK Biobank, a large, long-running health study. All the study subjects were free from diabetes, chronic kidney disease, or cardiovascular disease when enrolled between 2006 and 2010. They had also answered questions on their salt intake.

During an average follow-up period of 12 years, 13,120 of the participants were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. This was more apt to happen in salt consumers, with those who said they sometimes added salt having a 13% higher risk than those who never or rarely did. For those who usually added salt, there was a 20% higher risk, and for those who said they always ate their food that way, it jumped to 39%.

Salt and pepper shakers

Though the reason behind the link isn’t clear, the researchers did find that those who ate a lot of salt had a higher body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio, which would also increase their type 2 diabetes risk. Qi also theorizes that salt encourages people to eat more, which would promote inflammation and obesity, other risk factors.

Though he says more research is needed, including trials that have participants consume controlled levels of sodium, the findings should still encourage people to put that salt shaker down from time to time.

Qi says, “It’s not a difficult change to make, but it could have a tremendous impact on your health.”

You can read the whole study here.

Salt grinder with salt
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