Is consuming salt as bad for you as they say?

Salt is one of the latest commodities that we consume that has been demonised by science and the Daily Mail can’t wait to churnalise. Churnalism is hard pressed hacks regurgitating science papers on a cut and paste basis without any critical analysis. In the UK we even have Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) whose mission statement is “Consensus Action on Salt and Health is a group concerned with salt and its effects on health, supported by 25 expert scientific members.

CASH was set up in 1996 as a response to the refusal of the Chief Medical Officer to endorse the COMA recommendations to reduce salt intake, following the threat of withdrawal of funds by the food industry to the Conservative Party. This view was contrary to the current medical and scientific consensus and we aim to counter these claims with the wealth of scientific evidence, which clearly links high salt intake to ill health.”

Hope is at hand as a new study from Belgium suggests that those of us who are healthy have nothing to fear and even goes on to say “Surprisingly, they also found that the higher the salt intake, the less likely study participants were to die from heart disease.  In the meantime my chips will be getting its usual liberal dose from the shaker.

Salty Diet May Be Okay for Healthy People

Salty Diet May Be Okay for Healthy People

Everyone knows too much salt causes high blood pressure, which can cause heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and possibly death. That means we should all eat a low sodium diet to stay healthy. Or should we? A team of scientists led by Jan Staessen, MD, PhD, of the University of Leuven (Belgium), and colleagues, found that in healthy people, a low sodium diet did NOT protect against high blood pressure, and those healthy people with the lowest salt intake were more likely to die from heart disease.

For eight years the Belgian team followed nearly 3,700 participants who were roughly 40 years old. They measured blood pressure and the amount of sodium in each study volunteer’s urine once at the beginning of the study and once at the end. None of the study volunteers had high blood pressure when the study began. By the end of the study, volunteers with the lowest salt levels (2,500 milligrams per day) were just as likely to have high blood pressure as those who had the highest salt levels (6,000 milligrams per day).

t really boils down to how much salt is safe in our diets. We all need salt in our diet to survive, and we know too much salt can be harmful. Our kidneys control the level of salt in our bodies allowing us to release excess salt out with our urine. However, when there is too much salt, the kidney’s can’t keep up, and excess salt ends up in our bloodstream.

Salt draws in water. (Ever notice how you’re always thirsty after a handful of salty peanuts or chips?) More water in the bloodstream causes an increase in blood pressure. At high blood pressure levels, the heart has to pump harder to get blood to all our vital organs. Forcing the heart to pump harder, puts unnecessary strain on the muscle and can lead to heart disease.

In the end, we can take the study results with a grain of salt. If you really want to lower your risk of high blood pressure, lose weight and eat right. Studies show that when overweight people lose even 5 percent of their body weight, their risks of high blood pressure decreases. Cutting back on fats, sweets, and sugary soda and eating the appropriate amounts of fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy are proven to lower blood pressure.”

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3 Responses to Is consuming salt as bad for you as they say?

  1. Rose says:

    Salt seems to be another scare dredged from the vault.
    I took a look at it a while ago, over time it seems that hypothesis becomes belief and belief becomes consensus based on the thinnest of evidence.

    “The modern salt saga started in 1904 with a paper by Ambard and Brochard who showed an association between salt intake and blood pressure in six patients. On the basis of these observations they created a salt–blood pressure hypothesis.

    Subsequently in 1907 the results were opposed by Lôwenstein, and from then on the salt–blood pressure hypothesis has been the basis for a dispute between supporters of the hypothesis and sceptics.

    What we can learn from this is that the salt–blood pressure hypothesis and the controversy dates back to the first decade of the previous century, initially based on a few case histories”
    “In the following years Allan’s positive results were both confirmed and disproved by several authors, but during the late 1930s the use of salt restriction faded.”

    “In the introduction of his 1960 paper Dahl defines his position, namely that salt is deleterious. Salt is compared with fall-out, carcinogens and atherogenic factors, and later in the paper with tobacco, alcohol, and fat”
    http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/34/5/972.full

    “Salt will likely be first in the crosshairs. Pressure has been building for the sodium found mainly in table salt—currently an unrestricted substance “generally reckoned to be safe”—to be regulated as an “additive” subject to legal limits.”

    “Halving the amount of salt in the diet, says the AMA, would save 150,000 lives annually in the United States alone. That’s five times more than the number of people killed on the road each year.”

    “But unlike trans-fat, removing salt from the diet altogether would be most unwise. Sodium is one of the body’s four essential electrolytes (along with potassium, calcium and magnesium). It helps maintain the right balance of fluids in the body, and allows the brain to transmit messages and the muscles to contract and relax.”
    http://www.economist.com/node/12536485?story_id=12536485

    It gets worse.
    Some table salt is used as a carrier for iodine.

    Iodized salt

    “Iodine deficiency disorder (IDD) is a serious public health threat for 2 billion people worldwide. It is the leading cause of mental development disorders in young children, from cretinism to more subtle degrees of impaired cognitive development which can lead to poor school performance and reduced work capacity in hundred of millions of children.”

    IDD can easily be prevented at low cost, however, with small quantities of iodine.
    One of the best and least expensive methods of preventing iodine deficiency disorder is by simply iodizing table salt, which is currently done in many countries.”
    http://www.who.int/nmh/iodine/en/

    “Amid concern that people in the United States are consuming inadequate amounts of iodine, scientists in Texas have found that 53 percent of iodized salt samples contained less than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended level of this key nutrient. Iodized table salt is the main source of iodine for most individuals, they note in a study scheduled for the Feb. 15 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology

    Purnendu K. Dasgupta and colleagues point out that iodine intake has been decreasing in the United States for decades. The reasons include reduced use of iodine-based additives in livestock feed and bread, and public health warnings about salt’s role in high blood pressure.
    Iodine is especially important for normal brain development in newborn infants and children, they state, noting a link between iodine deficiency and attention deficit disorder or ADD that has been suggested by other researchers.”
    http://www.physorg.com/news121340568.html

  2. Junican says:

    The study you quote mentions 2.5 grams and 6 grams, but nowhere in your post is the figure mentioned as regards the ability of the body to excrete salt. How much salt can the kidneys excrete? What is the capacity of the human body to excrete salt? I would have thought that this would be a fundamental consideration. Odd, isn’t it, that this fundamental fact is never mentioned in salt scare stories. Why is that? There again, there may be such a wide variation between individual salt tolerances that an average is pretty meaningless. It may be that the vast majority of individuals are very salt tolerant, while a few are ‘defective’ in this matter, and tend not to excrete surplus salt as they should. There are shades of ‘diabetes’ and ‘obesity’ in this thought, are there not?
    If this idea has any substance, you could extend it to tobacco smoke tolerance. It may well be that the vast majority of smokers have a very good tolerance of the harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke, and that those who succumb to lung cancer etc do so because of their individual low tolerance.
    In which case, epidemiological studies are pretty useless, aren’t they? They single out those people who have a low tolerance and generalise this low tolerance to the whole population as if the whole population has low tolerance. It also implies that factors other than tobacco may be involved, if a person has a low tolerance of substances which might expedite the appearance of lung cancer. Are there any studies which examine other possible causes of lung cancer, other than smoking? I mean that in the sense of studies of lung cancer in people who have never smoked. What is the cause of their lung cancers?
    It seems to me that the whole anti-smoking agenda is ‘A Comedy of Errors’ from start to finish.

  3. churchmouse says:

    Hello, Dave

    Two brief remarks — one is that we need salt to regulate our internal balance. My mother used to get really ill every summer, to the point where she had to take a few days off work and be confined to her bed. The industrial nurse at her workplace told her that she wasn’t consuming enough salt. (She was never too keen on it and probably just stopped salting her food.) According to the nurse, salt regulates electrolyte balance.

    Second, iodine was introduced into American salt early in the 20th century (IIRC) to prevent goiters, especially in children. I remember the photo in my high school biology book of a youth who had a goiter on his neck. It looked as if he had swallowed a potato. My grandmothers were particularly concerned that we kids salted our food for that reason.

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