Author(s): Cohen AJ, Roe FJ
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Abstract Laboratory animal, clinical and epidemiological studies in the published literature have been reviewed in order to establish whether excessive salt intake is an important risk factor for the development of osteoporosis and whether an intervention strategy based on salt restriction would be beneficial in the prevention of osteoporosis. Genetic factors appear to be far more important than the combination of nutritional, hormonal, environmental and lifestyle factors in the pathogenesis of osteoporosis. The most important single non-genetic factor is oestrogen deficiency in postmenopausal women. Preventive measures should be aimed at maximizing peak bone mass at skeletal maturity and retarding bone loss thereafter. Apart from postmenopausal oestrogen deficiency, various factors have been incriminated as risk factors for osteoporosis, and these include age at menarche, age at and years since menopause, insufficient physical exercise, alcohol, smoking, low calcium intake, low or high protein intake and high intake of phosphorus, sodium or caffeine. Many of the risk factors are considered to be weak, although when combined they could impact significantly on bone health. Increased intakes of various nutritional factors (potassium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C), fibre and alkaline-producing fruit and vegetables favour adult bone health. Calcium homeostasis is normally well regulated such that increased calcium loss via the urine leads to increased calcium absorption from the gut. However, the duration of this adaptive process may be greater than that of many of the studies demonstrating that increased salt intake leads to both increased sodium and calcium in the urine. In any case, higher urinary calcium output appears to be seen only in a minority of humans in response to increased salt intake. As numerous factors-genetic, nutritional, hormonal and lifestyle-are involved in the maintenance of calcium homeostasis, it is difficult to devise human studies which adequately take into account all the important factors. Another difficulty is that many past studies have relied on imprecise methods for the measurement of bone resorption. Nor have studies based on the use of the laboratory rat produced clear answers to the problem because the rat, as a species, is uniquely deficient in its ability to handle the relevant minerals. Limited studies to date indicate that increased sodium intake neither exerts a consistent effect on various biomarkers of bone health nor leads to irreversible changes in the bone modelling process in men or in pre- or postmenopausal women. We conclude from the available evidence that increased sodium (or salt) intake is not an important risk factor for osteoporosis and that a reduction of salt intake from 9 to 6g/day in the diet would not be beneficial as an intervention measure in the prevention of osteoporosis. More research is needed to (i) assess the effects (especially long-term) of various nutrients including sodium on bone health, (ii) assess the long-term value of any intervention strategy involving reduced intake of a particular nutrient such as sodium; and (iii) determine whether subpopulations exist particularly in the elderly (e.g. sodium-responsive subjects) in which adaptation to sodium-induced hypercalciuria may be compromised. General prudence dictates that excessively high levels of dietary salt should be eschewed by those persons with raised blood pressure or a limited range of genetic disorders. However, for the generally healthy person there is no sound evidence that the consumption of salt at the present average level of 9g/day constitutes a risk factor for osteoporosis.
This article was published in Food Chem Toxicol
and referenced in Journal of Osteoporosis and Physical Activity