Is More Salt Healthy or Not?

Salt is being shaken all over the place and recent controversial studies are bashing the recommendations on what is really the right amount to consume daily. We have been living under ‘less salt is better’ for reduced cardiovascular heart disease (CHD) and hypertension warning for decades. Now we are being hit with not enough salt in our diet could also cause heart problems and death.

The American Journal of Hypertension released an evidenced based study stating “in none of the primary or supplementary analyses was a low sodium intake associated with beneficial effects on all-cause mortality (ACM) or cardio vascular disease (CVD).”

Science is up in arms and, in an attempt to calm things down, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to get to the bottom of dietary sodium and health outcomes for the general population. Before you grab your shakers and start salting food without a thought, let’s dive into what science is really saying about this important mineral.  

We Need Salt

Sea salt in a dish
Ina Peters/Stocksy United

Salt contains sodium, an important element the body needs to function properly. Sodium regulates our blood pressure, blood volume, and plays an important part in our nerves and muscles working right.

Salt helps our body remain balanced and hydrated especially during exercise where we are losing water and sodium through sweat. Salt is naturally occurring in certain foods like vegetables, dairy products, meats, and many condiments purchased at the store.

The salt shaker is no stranger to dining tables where increased sodium is added to already salty foods. The old school recommendations for salt intake of 1500mg to no more than 2300mg daily (less than 1 tsp of table salt) is now on the hot seat.   

More Research Required

The research is not saying that too much salt is good for you—anything in extreme can be unhealthy. But what they are challenging is the “lower limits of salt intake in terms of safety have not been clearly defined.”

What has come to light is that low salt diets activate the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone and sympathetic nervous systems which can increase insulin resistance. This means the body produces insulin but does not know how to use it effectively and is linked to a greater risk of heart disease.

The problem with making blanket reductions of salt across the spectrum for all people is it may not have been the best way to handle the rising issue of sodium causing heart disease. The truth about salt intake is consuming too much or too little can be detrimental depending on the person.

The Institute of Medicine has come forward with “more randomized controlled trials will be needed, as these represent the highest quality study design for determining the effect of sodium on health outcomes.” And, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, “careless interpretation of treatment effects by researchers can lead to unintended consequences and newspaper articles such as “Now Salt Is Safe to Eat.”

With all the confusion about salt intake, more research is definitely required to examine the current recommendations of 1500 to 2300mg of salt as being beneficial for the general population.   

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