Sodium and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM)

IOM Report Cover

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM)external icon, formerly the Institute of Medicine (IOM), is an independent, nonprofit organization that works outside of the government to provide unbiased, dependable advice to decision makers and the public. The NASEM’s goal is to help those in government and the private sector make informed health decisions by providing evidence they can rely on. Many of the studies that NASEM undertakes begin as specific requests from Congress, federal agencies, or independent organizations.

NASEM has published three reports directly related to sodium, including the most recently published Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium.

Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for Sodium and Potassium

Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) are a set of reference values used to plan and assess nutrient intakes of healthy people.

The DRIs for sodium and potassium were reviewed and updated by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in their 2019 report, Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. external icon The report was jointly funded by the U.S. and Canadian governments to review the scientific evidence and update, as appropriate, the DRIs for sodium and potassium.

The Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium report draws on the 2017 NASEM report, Guiding Principles for Developing Dietary Reference Intakes Based on Chronic Diseaseexternal icon and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) 2018 systematic evidence review, the Effects of Dietary Sodium and Potassium Intake on Chronic Disease Outcomes and Related Risk Factorsexternal icon.

Additionally, the IOM’s 2013 report, Sodium Intake in Populations: Assessment of Evidenceexternal icon, and the IOM’s 2010 report, Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United Statesexternal icon were used to inform the 2019 Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium.

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2013 Institute of Medicine Report Supports Efforts to Reduce Sodium Intake

The IOM report, Sodium Intake in Populations: Assessment of Evidenceexternal icon, focused on studies evaluating the relationship between sodium intake and health published since 2003. Instead of looking at measures such as blood pressure, the researchers assessed the relationship between sodium and other health outcomes, including strokes, deaths from cardiovascular disease, and heart failure, among others.

The IOM committee reported that the evidence showed a relationship between higher levels of sodium consumption and risk for cardiovascular disease. It also concluded that there is substantial population benefit—and no evidence of harm—from reducing sodium intake to a level of 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day. However, because Americans eat an average of 3,400 mg per day, it is clear that public health efforts need to continue to encourage lower sodium intake.

For CDC, sodium reduction continues to be a priority. Reducing sodium intake is a critical, achievable, and effective public health action to reduce blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health.

Read CDC’s commentary on the 2013 IOM reportexternal icon in the American Journal of Hypertension.

Read the IOM committee’s clarificationexternal icon in JAMA about the 2013 report’s conclusions. (Subscription or payment required.)

2010 Institute of Medicine Report Finds Coordinated Action Is Required to Reduce Sodium

The 2010 IOM report, Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United Statesexternal icon, concluded that government, industry, community groups, and consumers must work together to reduce sodium content in the food supply. The report recommended as a main strategy that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration set mandatory national standards to gradually reduce sodium content in foods.

National standards would lead to lower sodium levels of food in stores and restaurants, helping consumers to reduce their personal sodium intake.