Melissa Wenner Moyer’s article entitled “It’s Time to End the War on Salt” was a huge eye-opener for me a few years back. As an avid pro-healthy lifestyle, healthful food proponent, I had spent years, probably most of my mature life avoiding salt intake like the plague. I suffered from poor lower extremity circulation, developing cankles after long days at school and work or during longer period sitting (i.e. during travel). Not so anymore after adjusting my salt intake.
Moyer’s main premise is that most of us need salt, even more than the dietary recommendations (or restrictions). According to a few studies, not enough salt in our diet can be dangerous, ranging from side effects like excacerbation of heart disease and cardiac death.
The European Project on Genes in Hypertension (EPOGH) Investigators published a multi-national study in May 4, 2011 JAMA that clearly showed the correlation between low sodium intake and cardiovascular disease (CVD). There was an increase in systolic blood pressure with the higher salt intake, but not rise in diastolic blood pressure. Bottom line, the higher salt intake did not translate into a higher risk of hypertension of CVD.
A previous cohort study done at Albert Einstein College in New York showed a correlation between lower sodium excretion, i.e. intake and myocardial infarction in hypetensive men. This study performed the most accurate measurement: the 24-hour sodium excretion test. The Second National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey confirmed the association between higher cardiovascular mortality and low sodium intake. The Rotterdam Study did not find conclusive evidence to a correlation or association between sodium intake and CVD and mortality. Another study showed that a low sodium diet in congestive heart failure, had huge increases in aldosterone (which raises blood pressure) and plasma renin activity (which also raises blood pressure) and had poorer outcomes than the normal intake sodium group. Not to say this is the mechanism in healthy individuals, but these studies may be the beginning of the salt restrictive reversal.
A Finnish study performed the 24-hour sodium excretion test concluded a higher risk between high sodium intake and cardiovascular events in males. A study at McMaster University, which also conducted the 24-hour sodium excretion test in patients with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases found that the risk of cardiovascular sequelae are receiving low sodium (less than 3 g / day), and a high sodium (more than 7 g / day). Many studies follow these results as well.
What’s the conclusion? Yes, we should limit our salt intake, but not to 2.3 g/day as recommeneded previously, but to 6 g/day. First of all limit your intake of processed foods, since thats the biggest culprit when it comes to high sodium intake. It’s better to use unrefined salts, such as sea salt (equivalent in sodium to table salt, but less processed, containing magnesium, calcium halides and sulfates ), Himalayan salt (which contains over 80 minerals and elements), rock salts (some versions are iodized), since they contain higher amount of elements and trace minerals and – to add a personal note – taste better, so we can use less of them, thus getting less sodium overall.
Common table salt, the most commonly used and put in processed food, is 97-99% sodium chloride, has been processed with anticaking agents like sodium aluminosilicate or magnesium carbonate. On the material safety data sheet for sodium aluminosilicate the following is written: „Hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of eye contact (irritant), of ingestion, of inhalation. Severe over-exposure can result in death.”
Magnesium carbonate doesn’t fare better, as it is described as possibly „ toxic to cardiovascular system. Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage.” It is also toxic if inhaled. These are two of the long list of anti-caking agents (many which contain aluminum, which is linked with neurotoxicity in infants, Alzhiemer’s disease and possibly breast cancer ) that can be found in common table salt. The addition of iodine is the only redeeming quality of the salt.
There is a possibility that many table salts contain fluoride, which is linked to so many bone and joint problems, starting even in young people and children, osteosarcoma in young boys, neurological problems, and thyroid problems that it will soon have a post of it’s own.