A new Canadian study shows average sodium consumption of three to five grams a day does not increase the risk of health problems contrary to popular belief, and the risk rises only when intake climbs above five grams a day.

The report, which was published in the Journal Lancet by researchers at McMaster University, is based on a study of over 90,000 people in 18 countries. Researchers used data from a morning urine sample that measured sodium levels and then estimated daily intake.

The study found that average intakes of three to five grams of sodium a day were not linked with higher rates of blood pressure or stroke.

The study found China was the only country where 80 per cent of adults had a daily sodium intake above five grams. Most countries in the study had an average of three to five grams a day.

“Our study shows we should be far more concerned about targeting communities and countries with high average sodium intake (above five grams a day, such as China) and bringing them down to the moderate range (three to five grams a day),” says Andrew Mente with the Population Health Research unit at McMaster University.

The data is also at odds with World Health Organization guidelines which recommend a cut in sodium intake to less than two grams a day worldwide, in a bid to reduce rates of high blood pressure and strokes linked to high salt intakes.

Other experts in the field question the study conclusions, saying the formula for assessing sodium intake used in the study is not an accurate one.

“The results…when combined with what other researchers are finding, likely won’t affect international guidelines,” Dr. Norm Campbell, a cardiologist at the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta at the University of Calgary, said in a phone interview with CTV News.

The Canadian government is reviewing sodium intake and is expected to release a report next year.

With files from CTV Medical Correspondent Avis Favro and Producer Elizabeth St. Philip