The prevailing advice from doctors today is to eat a low sodium diet and minimize salt consumption. The idea is to cut back on the risk of hypertension, high blood pressure and heart disease. The food industry has jumped on board with this by creating products that are ‘Low Sodium’ or even ‘Sodium Free’.
Many people have taken this advice to cut out the salt, but what have been the results?
Many studies have been done looking at the correlation between salt intake and the risk of hypertension, high blood pressure, etc. The most recent study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in May 2011. The study followed 3,681 healthy European men and women aged 60 and younger for about eight years. Those that consumed higher than average amounts of sodium did not experience an increased risk for hypertension, stroke, or heart attack.
The senior author of the study, Dr. Jan Staessen MD, stated that the the study’s findings “do not support the current recommendations of a generalized and indiscriminate reduction of sodium intake at the population level.”
A 2010 study from Harvard University found that participants developed insulin resistance in only seven days when put on a salt restricted diet. Insulin resistance is an alarming condition that indicates a strong likelihood for developing Type 2 Diabetes.
A study in 1996, that was also published in JAMA and the NY Times, was done by Dr. Alexander Gordon Logan. He took 56 existing studies on hypertension or high blood pressure and restriction in salt and combined the data together, which included 3,505 people. He re-evaluated it all and discovered this: if you have normal blood pressure, and you restrict salt, it will not prevent you from getting heart disease or high blood pressure. If you have hypertension or high blood pressure and you restrict salt, 97% of those with high blood pressure or hypertension will not get any measurable benefit. 2-5% get measurable benefit, but it is not significant; they are only able to reduce their blood pressure by 3.7mm mercury.
These findings led Dr. Alexander Gordon Logan to say in JAMA, “You might as well go ahead and salt your food to taste.”
Based on these studies, perhaps restricting salt intake may not be the best idea.
Looking back on history, we can see that salt has always been a crucial part of the human diet.
Gold, brides and slaves were traded for salt. In salt poor Africa, captured children from warring tribes were sold into slavery in exchange for salt. In Holland a much feared punishment was to restrict criminals to a diet of bread and water without salt. It is said by African tribesman, “He who has salt has war.” The Roman statesman Cassiodorus said, “Some seek not gold, but there lives not a man who does not need salt.”
In the farming and ranching world, what is one of the things that humans always give their livestock? Salt blocks, which the animals are not restricted from licking. Animals eat what salt they need and are healthier for it.
From modern studies to human history to even the livestock industry, salt is considered an important component of human’s lives. But what are some of the benefits of salt?
Salt is involved in thousands of metabolic processes. Salt is crucial for brain and neuron functioning, particularly for growing babies. It is also required to activate digestive enzymes and produce hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Stomach acid is required to digest proteins and to kill parasites. Without salt, stomach acid cannot properly digest food and that leads to heartburn.
So what should you do? The basic principle is to just salt your food to taste. Your body will tell you when you have added enough salt. No specific measurements required. In fact, if you suffer from heartburn, salting your food to taste should cause your heartburn to disappear in about three weeks.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. As a responsible human being it is important that you do your own due diligence. You alone are responsible for how you choose to use the information on this site.