Eating a normal amount of salt or, by our government’s standards would be considered a high amount, is not bad for you. The government’s recommendation of 1tsp of salt per day is dangerously low…
“However, the decision to adopt a low sodium diet should be made with awareness that there is no evidence that this approach to blood pressure reduction is either safe, in terms of ultimate health impact, or that it is as effective in producing cardioprotection as has been proven for some drug therapies.” – American Heart Association Journals
“Conclusions In this population-based cohort, systolic blood pressure, but not diastolic pressure, changes over time aligned with change in sodium excretion, but this association did not translate into a higher risk of hypertension or CVD complications. Lower sodium excretion was associated with higher CVD mortality.” – Journal of the American Medical Association
Huh… seems that it’s the opposite of of what they’ve been telling us.
If it doesn’t cause high blood pressure, what does restricting salt do?
“Data from randomized controlled studies define several potentially important non–blood pressure effects of sodium restriction. Notably, increases in plasma renin activity (PRA), sympathetic nerve activity, insulin resistance, and fasting glucose have been documented. These may be adversely associated with the occurrence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) events.” – American Heart Association Journals
“Low-salt diet increases insulin resistance in healthy subjects” – Metabolism Journal
Here’s why I said one tsp was too low…
“If sodium intake drops too low, our metabolism shifts into a sodium-sparing mode. This stimulates the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone hormonal system, which in turn maintains osmotic balance and adequate blood pressure. A significant increase in renin and aldosterone is a symptom of sodium insufficiency, and has been shown to occur as salt intake drops below 1.5 teaspoons per day. Interestingly enough, the recommendation for 2,300 mg of sodium equates to approximately one teaspoon of salt. An intake this low is associated with an even more rapid rise in renin.” – Chriskresser.com
“And when average life expectancy is plotted against the countries average salt intake, the trend shows that higher salt consumption is actually correlated with longer life expectancy. While this correlation does not imply causation, it is interesting to note the compatibility of a high salt diet with a long life expectancy.” – Chriskresser.com
Conclusion: What to do?
One study showed that:
“The association between estimated sodium excretion and CV events was J-shaped. Compared with baseline sodium excretion of 4 to 5.99 g per day, sodium excretion of greater than 7 g per day was associated with an increased risk of all CV events, and a sodium excretion of less than 3 g per day was associated with increased risk of CV mortality and hospitalization for CHF. Higher estimated potassium excretion was associated with a reduced risk of stroke.” – Journal of the American Medical Association
So, too much could be bad and too little is bad. This all isn’t to say that you should go out and gorge yourself on salt until it makes you throw up. But don’t be afraid of it. If you crave it, there might be a reason for that. Your body probably needs more.
If you already have hypertension, try out adding more salt in your diet and measure your BP with a cuff. If you see a spike then go back to your salt-restricting ways.
Whenever you hear a simplistic, one-size-fits-all solution, particularly from a political entity, you should probably dig deeper or ignore it or… do the opposite.
Something I haven’t covered much here is that your body likes balance and the balance between sodium and potassium is very important (healthy kidneys are pretty good at maintaining that balance). So, sodium is just one part of the equation…