Is Salt Dangerous? Or Good for You?

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Is salt dangerous? Certain organizations – such as those issuing official dietary guidelines – have warned for a long time against salt and recommended a reduced intake. But as often when it comes to nutrition, the science is far from settled.

A recent review of all good studies in this area shows that the amount of salt that most people consume is associated with good health. Both an extremely high salt consumption and a low consumption seem to be worse.

The review can be added to several similar reviews in recent years, that question the dead-certain warnings against salt. Neither too much, nor too little, seems to be best.

You can actually get too little salt. This causes fatigue, dizziness and difficulty concentrating. You lose focus. And maybe you don’t just feel worse from salt deficiency, perhaps it’s also really bad for your health.

Avoid high doses of salt from junk food, cheap processed foods, soda and bread. Extreme amounts of salt are hardly good for you, and there are more reasons to avoid such foods. But if you eat real food, you can probably put as much salt on your food as you like.

If you have symptoms of salt deficiency, try taking half a teaspoon of salt, dissolved in water. If you quickly feel better, you were probably salt deficient.

More

Should You Eat Less Salt – Or More?

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

Is Salt Bad for You?

17 Comments

  1. Mark Cancellieri
    Too often there is an attempt to make health advice universal. For example, people with high blood pressure invariably are told to reduce their salt consumption. Unfortunately, almost no one tests whether this actually helps to reduce the patient's blood pressure. My guess is that it might be helpful in reducing blood pressure in those who are sensitive to salt, but it will not be particularly effective for everyone else.

    I think "personal science" needs to play a bigger role in our approach. In other words, we need to change one variable and notice the results on our biomarkers. Currently, most of us just change the variable, and we have no idea of the results. We just assume that it helps and leave it at that.

  2. tz
    Salt is one of the few things I don't get cravings for. But when going back on a more strict LCHF (when I first started or cheat), A cup of bullion helps when I feel fatigued.

    The studies I know of say the hypertension is related to high carbs, so low salt is trying to treat the symptom.

  3. Eric Anderson
    Phinney and Volek cover the salt issue as does observtion of none grain none sugar eaters.

    Less sugar and grain and the body self regulates to less salt
    (Humans only added salt after agriculture)

    Also bone broth and some supplemts per phinney and volek

    Magnessium may help some with muscle cramps

  4. StellaB
    Actually, there have been many studies of salt reduction and hypertension. It's been a while since I've looked at them so I don't remember the exact numbers, but a plurality of young hypertensives are sensitive. A smaller number of young normotensive people are sensitive to salt, but those that are sensitive are much more likely to develop hypertension. As people age, they become much more sensitive to salt.

    There've been several recent studies that have been misrepresented in the popular press. A Cochrane review decided that it was difficult to get people to change diet, but this has been represented as "salt reduction doesn't work". Another one showed that people with very advanced congestive heart failure on maximal diuretic therapy did less well on ultra-low salt diets. That one has been represented as "low salt diets are dangerous". If you eat processed food or restaurant food you definitely don't need extra salt. If you eat all fresh food and you do heavy work outs, you might need some extra.

  5. PatrickP
    I eat pasture raised, salted butter by the tablespoon so I've got fat AND salt covered. :-)
  6. Linda Morken
    Here is a great article which gives an overview of the need for essential salt. The importance of recognizing the great difference between refined salt and sea salt cannot be overstated. http://realfoodforager.com/reclaim-your-sea-salt/
  7. Gregg Sheehan
    As with water and air, I think the body can work out how much salt it needs and adjust its intake accordingly - unless you confuse it with a variety of non-foods from the centre aisles of the super-market. (Oh, and nutritionists - they just add confusion to the mix as well - keep them out of the equation.)
  8. Ted Hutchinson
    Excessive salt intakes probably arises when consuming foods away from home or processed foods where you aren't responsible for adding salt.

    I doubt the addition of salt to home cooking is the problem although people who are concerned may want to use a Sea Salt with a naturally high Potassium content or possibly Lo-Salt.

    High potassium intake blunts the effect of elevated sodium intake on blood pressure levels. they found 86.0% consumed over 6 g of salt/day and 87.7% less than the recommended intake of potassium (4.7 g). They say "when people have an increased intake of potassium, high intake of sodium is not associated with higher BP."

    Being low in chloride seems to lead to higher mortality.
    Yin-yang effect of sodium and chloride presents salt conundrum

    Comparison of the prediction by 27 different factors of coronary heart disease and death in men and women of the Scottish Heart Health Study: cohort study. This study shows those with potassium intakes at or above the optimal 4.7g/d were much less likely to die from heart disease.

  9. StellaB
    But isn't potassium untake a marker for fruit and vegetable intake? If you start advocating increased F&V intake to control BP, you are veering awfully close to conventional medicine's DASH diet.....
    Replies: #12, #13
  10. Kristin
    I read recently, though can't remember where, that a diet high in sugar causes the kidneys to hold onto salt, which can cause problems. However, without sugar in the equation, the body is very proficient at getting rid of excess salt. I personally add pink Himalayan rock salt to all my meat, but I don't enjoy it added to vegetables, but I do try to ensure I eat salt every day, to help me stay hydrated and maintain electrolyte balance. Refined table salt has no nutritional value, so I prefer the salt I add myself to anything that already has salt added.
    Reply: #11
  11. Zepp
    Its high Insulin that make the kidney to reasorb more salts!

    There are a good regulation on salt in ouer blood stream.. if on is salt defiency.. there are hormones that make us urge more salt!

    And if there is too much in the blood.. one get thirsty and drink a lot of water.. peeing out excesses!

    Read all about it.. its an good articel.. or its a few.. only a few.. if one whant to know!

    https://chriskresser.com/specialreports/salt

    The thing to know is that junkfood is overladen whit carbs an salt.. avoid those.. eat salt, eat it and ad it as your taste buds prefer it.. try to rely on your bodys signaling!

    It have worked for a lot of generations!

  12. murray
    DASH diet did no good for me. My physician was concerned with my blood pressure at 130/90 when I was in my late 20s. So I reduced salt and virtually eliminated processed foods, ate more fruits and vegetables and exercised and lost over 15 pounds. Blood pressure: 130/90. Then, for other reasons, I went LCHF (losing even more weight), reducing fruit and eliminating sugar and starch and adding lots of salt to the food I prepare. I also do things for endothelial health, such as eating nitrate and NO-stimulating foods for vasodilation (celery, spinach, 100% dark chocolate, etc.), eating collagen-rich meat and sauces from braising joints, and stretching. Now in my 50s, the most recent trip to the doctor I was 98/68 (average of five measurements taken at one minute intervals). This is consistent with the metabolic descriptions I have seen on the effects of fructose, uric acid and insulin on kidney and salt regulation in the body.

    My understanding (from Phinney and Volek's Art & Science book) is that there is plenty of potassium in meat so long as you don't cook it in a way that loses the intra-cellular fluid. The body maintains high concentration of potassium within cells and low sodium in the cells. (I will steer clear of the Gilbert Ling ion pump controversy here, but all agree the potassium and sodium concentrations differ inside and outside cells inversely.)

  13. Ted Hutchinson
    There are plenty of non-fruit sources here are some meat examples.
    Potassium content meats
    It worth checking the ratio of your sodium to potassium intake and if you have to eat processed or commercially produced foods to ensure your potassium intake is adequate. 4700mg/d.
  14. StellaB
    Murray: the majority of young hypetensives are not salt sensitive, but the majority of elderly hypertensives are salt sensitive. Just because you fell in the majority as a young person, it does not follow that you will automatically fall in the minority as an elderly person (you're not there yet). You might, you might not and weight plus physical activity will continue to be part of the equation. Weight loss, by any method, is extremely effective for lowering BP at all ages. Plus, the change from ultra high sodium prepared foods to fresh foods seasoned to taste with "lots of salt" may well have resulted in lower total sodium intake. I'm sure that insulin levels, other hormone levels and nutrient intakes do have an effect on sodium excretion at the glomerular level, but I'm less sure that they are significant factors (with the obvious exception of potassium). OTOH, if you take elderly people and lower their salt intake significantly, you will see a BP drop that is large enough to be useful. You've confounded your "n=1” experiment with multiple factors.

    Ted: Over the years I have learned to never, never argue on the internet about what constitutes "a lot" or "a little".

    Reply: #15
  15. murray
    Yes, I accept that my experience in my 30s and 40s may not apply to an elderly person. I am not sure why, metabolically, but if you say the data says so, I suppose some grand metabolic change happens with age. What is elderly in this case?

    You have mis-characterized my n=1. Losing weight and avoiding processed foods (with its ultra-high salt, as you say) had zero effect on my blood pressure. Avoiding processed food, low salt, reduced weight and DASH resulted in zero improvement. Rather it was the LCHF that made the difference and it was dramatic. So much that I had to start increasing salt because I would get orthostatic hypotension when I would do things like squat to look at items on lower shelves and then stand up quickly. So I have definitely been consuming much more salt than in the DASH phase. I go through a lot of salt now. For example, for breakfast this morning I had salted salmon roe, salted bone broth, salt-coated walnuts, salty cheese (Roquefort) and salted egg yolks and yoghurt (with a couple of tablespoons of cranberries and wild blueberries).

  16. Jeannie
    I have LOW BP. My doctor suggested I add more salt to my diet. This is really strange as most people I know of in my age range suffer not from low but high BP. I want to do this keto diet but as I have read it can lower your BP am concerned. Mine can drop as low as 82/54. I also have high blood sugars. I really want to get my numbers down.
    Reply: #17
  17. Peter Biörck Team Diet Doctor
    Then you must have good control and see what happens with your BP. Drinking water with one tea spoon added salt can be a good idea.

    I have LOW BP. My doctor suggested I add more salt to my diet. This is really strange as most people I know of in my age range suffer not from low but high BP. I want to do this keto diet but as I have read it can lower your BP am concerned. Mine can drop as low as 82/54. I also have high blood sugars. I really want to get my numbers down.

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