New research could affect New York's mandatory salt warnings on menus.

Credit: © Keith Leighton / Alamy

Is eating too much salt bad for you? A new report, which examines more than 35 years of research, says there is no consensus. Two professors at Columbia and a former member of the Board of Health published the paper this week—and the timing is suspiciously good for chain restaurants in New York City. Lawyers from the National Restaurant Association, in fact, were preparing to go court next week to fight the Health Department's salt law mandating that chain restaurants publish menu warnings for dishes containing more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium.

The study suggests that while there have indeed been two extremes in the salt wars, neither side has conclusively proven a scientific connection between sodium intake and hypertension and heart disease.

"We documented a strong polarization of scientific reports on the link between sodium intake and clinical outcomes in populations, and a pattern of uncertainty in published systematic reviews," they said.

Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at NYU, has addressed this scientific divide in the past, noting that kidney specialists always try to reduce their patient's salt intake, but clinical trials never seem to establish a cause and effect between salt and hypertension.

This is not the first time that experts have pointed to inconclusive findings about salt: A 2013 study said "evidence ... does not support reduction in sodium intake to below 2,300 mg per day." Some experts have even gone so far as to say that salt is good for you: A Washington Post article in May 2015 noted that, "sodium is necessary for preventing dehydration, for proper transmission of nerve impulses and for normal functioning of cells. If we ate no sodium at all, we would die."