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Dietary sodium as a risk factor for osteoporosis: where is the evidence?

  • Birgit Teucher (a1) and Sue Fairweather-Tait (a1)

Na-induced calciuria has been well documented and provides a physiological basis for the proposed role of dietary Na (or salt) as a risk factor for osteoporosis. However, the evidence is based primarily on acute salt-loading studies, and there are insufficient data on the effects of high salt intake on net Ca retention to predict long-term effects on bone health. Results of investigations on salt and bone turnover, as assessed by bone biomarkers, are inconsistent, but the large variations in inter-individual response to acute and chronic Na loading may be related to salt sensitivity. Results of cross-sectional and prospective investigations on high salt intake and long-term bone health are inconclusive, probably reflecting the difficulty of conducting such studies in free-living populations. However, the mean urinary Ca loss of 1 mmol/100 mmol Na suggests that chronic changes in salt intake may have large effects on Ca and bone balance, especially in individuals with a reduced capacity to compensate for Na-induced Ca loss. Investigating the relationship between salt intake and bone health requires a greater focus on whole diets (including components such as K, Mg, P and protein), reliable measures of salt intake, appropriate bone health outcome measures, and improved subject characterisation (e.g. salt sensitivity). The reasons for inter-individual variability should be explored using post-genomic techniques.

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*Corresponding author: Dr Birgit Teucher, fax +44 1603 255 167,
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Proceedings of the Nutrition Society
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  • EISSN: 1475-2719
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