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Poor salt, it gets such a bad rap when it comes to health. It seems crazy to me that there is such a fear of salt, it is an essential nutrient for life. Before canning and refrigeration, salt was the primary method of preserving food.
Roman soldiers received payment in salt. In the past, it was a compliment to be worth one's weight in salt. It isn't so much of compliment anymore. The American Heart Association and the Government's MyPlate have low recommendations for salt consumption. They recommend that we keep our salt consumption less than 2,300 milligrams a day. The recommendation is about one teaspoon a day. The average American gets about 3,400 milligrams per day.
What happened? Salt was so prized in the past n the past. In 1904 the the Journal of Experimental Medicine published the first paper that showed salt effected blood pressure. There were some ambitious reports over the next 40 years. Lewis Dahl bred some genetically altered mice. The mice were more susceptible to hypertension. He showed that giving the altered mice a large amount of salt would induced a deadly increase in blood pressure. What is absent in the study is the amount of salt given. The mice received a comparative dose of about 100 times what an actual human would eat. Most of us know, about anything in excess can kill us. Drink enough water and you can die of hyponatremia.
The American Journal of Hypertension did a seven study meta-analysis. The study found no evidence that cutting salt reduces the risk of heart attacks, strokes, or death of people with normal or high blood pressure. The British Medical Journal found that long term modest salt reduction reduces blood pressure. The British Medical Journal then concludes that it is beneficial for heart disease.
Reviewing the studies, my conclusion is hypertension is a complicated disease. Salt is not the sole factor in regards to someone keeling over. A study in the American Journal of Medicine showed that higher sodium intake the less likely they were to die of a heart attack. The mere fact of lowering your salt consumption doesn't appear to save you from a heart attack. It also appears that adding salt doesn't kill you.
What I find interesting about all these studies, from what I can tell, there wasn't any mention of the diet the test subjects were eating. I know from personal experience that salt is necessary for a ketogenic diet. The work of Dr. Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney that salt and minerals are critical while following a ketogenic diet. Low salt and minerals in a ketogenic diet makes a person light headed and lethargic.
When is a salt bad for you? I think the jury is still out on salt. The studies are suspect due to the lack of dietary information in regards to the studies. When is it good for you and necessary? When following a ketogenic diet, upping your salt and minerals is a necessity.
Stephanie is an endurance coach with a passion for motivating people to live healthier.