Six Startling Facts about Salt

Posted on Posted in Health

Apart from its trans-formative qualities, salt has a darker side. Salt is capable of magically transforming the humble deep fry from the merely acceptable to the sublime. Keep reading to find out if you need to worry about your  salt intake.


1. Salt overdose can be fatal

At approximately 1 gram per kilo of body weight, salt can be fatal. For an 85 kilogram man this would mean eating 85 grams in one sitting, very unlikely. However more than one teenager has met an untimely death from a dare to drink a bottle of soy sauce. There are even reports of suicide by excessive salt ingestion dating back to ancient China.


2. Different native people’s variation in salt intake is crazy

Populations around the world ingest hugely varying amounts of salt. The Yanomamo Indians of Brazil eat less than 1 g of salt per day, all the way up to over 20 g per day in Northern Japan. And what you may find the most surprising, this difference doesn’t reflect a higher rate of heart disease in Northern Japan.


3. Salt is essential to life

Our cells swim in a saline solution, and salt is in our blood. Without salt our most basic cellular machinery simply wouldn’t work.  We need salt to live.  Salt is widely portrayed as something to be avoided at all costs. However, keep in mind our kidneys are highly efficient at maintaining salt levels in our bodies. And any extra salt makes it way out through our urine and feces.


4. Himalayan pink salt is not a health elixir

It is plain old iron oxide, rust, which gives the pink color to Himalayan pink salt. Specialty salts often contain minerals that standard table salt doesn’t.  However what you need to put in perspective is that these mineral amounts are truly tiny. Using the Magnesium level in Celtic salt as an example, you would need to eat 100g in order to reach your daily dose of Magnesium (that’s a fatal dosage). Compared to the mineral levels you will get just from eating a range of whole foods, the amount coming from a specialty salt is insignificant. It’s OK to buy pink salt, but let’s be honest,  it’s because it is pretty.


5. Salt is responsible for one of the longest running and vitriolic disputes in medicine

This nondescript white crystal, with a long history, is potentially dangerous as well as potentially delicious. It has also been responsible for ‘one of the longest running, most vitriolic, and surreal disputes in all of medicine’, as  described by Gary Taubes, New York Times frequenting and award winning science journalist. Even the scientists don’t agree, there’s conflicting evidence out there. The core of the argument is as to whether or not salt increases hypertension (blood pressure) and therefore heart disease. If you are concerned about putting too much salt on your food,  keep reading.


6. You can probably stop worrying about adding too much salt

Having been implicated as one of the dietary evils of the modern age, let’s try and prize apart the salt facts from the hype.  Salt it seems does not actually increase blood pressure in most people. Our kidneys are highly effective at maintaining the salt levels in our blood, and even extremely high salt intakes (over 30 grams a day) can be filtered easily by our kidneys. There is however a small percentage of the population termed ‘salt sensitive’, who do show an increase in blood pressure in response to salt intake. But even this is under debate, with inconsistent findings.


In conclusion..

If you aren’t overweight and you don’t have high blood pressure, exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet based on whole foods; don’t spend sleepless nights wondering if you eat too much salt. Unless you are eating truly huge amounts, your kidneys are probably more than able to deal with it. In simple terms:  If you’re healthy, don’t worry. Just pass the salt.


Extra for experts

The (Political) Science of Salt – Gary Taubes

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