With the publication of two studies in the past few months tripping up the War on Salt, a new study threatens to give ammo to the sodium police. The research is already being spun with headlines such as “Too Much Salt is Bad for the Brain” or “Salt Link to Dementia.” But the study itself isn’t so unequivocal.
Researchers, who studied seniors in Quebec, assessed how much exercise their subjects were getting through a method called the Physical Activity Scale for the Elderly (PASE). They also calculated how much sodium these elderly folks were consuming. Controlling for other variables, the researchers report that “analyses showed an association between sodium intake and cognitive change over time in the low PASE group only.” (Emphasis added.)
And quite interestingly, the researchers found an inverse relationship between salt intake and cognitive decline in the high physical activity group, although it should be noted that this relationship was not statistically significant.
So is the takeaway lesson that older folks need to control their salt or they’re going to experience cognitive decline? Not really. In fact, the research raises questions about whether exercise has a protective effect against possible detriments from consuming a lot of sodium.
Additionally, the researchers report finding “[n]o significant association between sodium intake and cognitive function … in either the high- or low-physical activity groups” among the baseline group of generally healthy individuals.
As the researchers admit, there is “a paucity of research” looking at sodium and brain health. The only conclusion this latest study seems to offer is that seniors would do well to take a daily walk and, as always, try to stay healthy. Was that really worth all the doomsday headlines?