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Bust out the jumbo pretzels, potato chips and soy sauce!

Well, maybe not, but a new global study does challenge the long-held belief that a high-salt diet increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and other medical problems.

The study, from the McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences, analyzed more than 130,000 people across 49 countries, focusing on whether the relationship between sodium intake and death, heart disease and stroke differs in people with high blood pressure compared to those with normal blood pressure.

Its controversial findings suggest that a low-salt diet may not be as beneficial as previously thought.

"While our data highlights the importance of reducing high salt intake in people with hypertension (high blood pressure), it does not support reducing salt intake to low levels," Dr Andrew Mente, lead author, and associate professor of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics at McMaster's Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, said. "Our findings are important because they show that lowering sodium is best targeted at those with hypertension who also consume high sodium diets."

He said the results show that a low-salt diet actually increases the risk of heart attack or stroke 26 percent for people without high blood pressure.

On the other hand, a diet with excess salt doesn't increase the risk at all if blood pressure is normal, the study reported.

Mente concluded that having neither too high nor too low levels of sodium is optimal for health.

Critics have called the study and its conclusions "bad science."

"This is an extremely flawed analysis that doesn't provide new information, and it should not be used to guide public policy," said Dr. Elliott Antman, immediate past president of the AHA and an associate dean for clinical and translational research at Harvard Medical School.

"Unless we point out the deficiencies with this analysis, there could be a major public health problem."

Watch more above.


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