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High-Sodium Effervescent Products Linked to Increased Heart Problems

‘Fizzy’ medications may contain harmful amounts of salt (November 26)

Millions of patients worldwide taking effervescent, dispersible, and soluble medications have an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes because of the high salt content of such products.

Researchers from Great Britain found that some versions of analgesics, vitamin supplements, or other common drugs, if the maximum daily dose were taken, would exceed daily recommended limits for sodium.

High salt intake has been associated with hypertension, a key risk factor for strokes, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular diseases.

In a study published in the British Medical Journal, patients taking dispersible forms of drugs had a 16% increased risk of a heart attack, stroke, or vascular death compared with patients taking non–high-sodium versions of the same medications.

Patients and consumers of over-the-counter medicines, such as soluble aspirin or effervescent vitamin C and antacids should be warned about the potential dangers of high sodium intake. Doctors should prescribe fizzy or soluble formulations with caution only if the perceived benefits outweigh the risks. Many patients prefer these formulations because they have difficulty swallowing large tablets, but the study authors want patients to be able to make an informed decision with the help of their doctor.

The World Health Organization recommends a daily upper limit of sodium intake of less than 2 grams—equivalent to about 1 teaspoon of salt.

For this 7-year study, the team tracked more than 1.2 million patients between 1987 and 2010. During this time, more than 61,000 new cardiovascular events occurred in the patients being studied. Body mass index, smoking, alcohol intake, a history of chronic illnesses, and the use of other medications were taken into account.

Besides the 16% higher risk of a heart problem or stroke, patients taking sodium-containing drugs were seven times more likely to develop hypertension and their overall death rate was 28% higher.

The researchers would like to see clearer labels. They also acknowledged that there is still some controversy about the link between dietary sodium and heart risks but say their findings were potentially of public health importance.

[Source: BMJ; November 26, 2013.]

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