On August 14, 2014, The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the highest impact general medical journal in the world, published two important papers from the Prospective Rural and Urban Epidemiology (PURE) Study group questioning current guidelines based on the perceived benefits of reducing salt intake. As part of this group and a contributing author in the two articles, Dr. Rita Yusuf, Dean of Independent University, Bangladesh’s (IUB’s) School of Life Sciences, along with hundreds of colleagues from 18 countries, collected and analyzed data from over 100,000 individuals worldwide, who were followed for four years for the largest study of its kind. The data from PURE, currently the largest international study to look at sodium and potassium intakes and health outcomes, demonstrates, that the lowest risk of death and cardiovascular events was found in those who consumed moderate amounts of sodium with an optimal level at 3 – 6 grams per day. This finding contradicts conventional recommendations worldwide to lower salt intake to below 1.5 mg per day and contends that lower salt intake may actually be detrimental to those individuals within the general population whose blood pressure is normal. Due to the importance of the findings and the fact that they question conventional wisdom, the PURE articles in The New England Journal of Medicine have re-invigorated the debates on dietary salt intake and received wide international press coverage with online articles in The New York Times, Time, The Wall Street Journal, US News and World Report, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Bloomberg, and Harvard Health Publications at Harvard Medical School, among dozens of other news outlets.
The PURE Study is currently comprised of over 20 countries around the world from all socioeconomic stages of development. The study’s overarching hypothesis is that lifestyle changes acquired as a result of urbanization increase the risk factors for cardiovascular and other chronic diseases. Dr. Salim Yusuf of McMaster University, Canada is the founder and lead Principal Investigator of the PURE Study. The PURE Bangladesh component was initiated at Independent University in 2006 by Professor M. Omar Rahman, Vice Chancellor of IUB and Executive Director of the Centre for Health, Population and Development. The Bangladesh PURE group consists of Professor Rahman as the Principal Investigator, Dr. Rita Yusuf as the Co- Principal Investigator, and numerous faculty and staff members from both The School of Life Sciences and The School of Public Health.