Sodium – it’s good for you!

“…decades of scientific research have failed to prove ANY benefits of a low-salt diet, and in fact tend to show the opposite. Studies have also failed to prove salt’s connection to heart disease.” Dr. Mercola.

Functions of Sodium:

  • Major component of blood plasma, lymphatic fluid, extracellular fluid and amniotic fluid
  • Carries nutrients into and out of cells
  • Maintains and regulates blood pressure
  • Increases the glial cells, which are responsible for creative thinking and long-term planning
  • Helps the brain communicate with muscles by transmitting electrical impulses and regulates muscle contractions

Therapeutic uses of salt:

  • People who sweat profusely, have strenuous out-door jobs, do a lot of sport need to redress their electrolyte balance because a lot of salt is lost in sweat
  • Sunstroke
  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Muscle cramps

Signs of deficiency:

  • Diahhrea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Muscular irritability

“In 1997, the DASH-sodium study was conducted to determine whether or not a low-salt diet would control hypertension. The DASH diet consists largely of fresh vegetables and fruits, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy and is very low in salt. But it’s also low in sugar. So as people on DASH diets do show reduced hypertension, the reason for this is not the reduction of salt but the reduction of sugar. This diet was also pretty much free of processed foods or artificial additives, which really do contribute to hypertension in a real way.” Dr. Mercola

The DASH-sodium study is particularly interesting because the control group, which consisted of several thousand people, was made up of people who had a diet of mainly or only processed food including meat 3 times a day, and who drank a lot. The group was divided into two: Group A was allowed to carry on eating and drinking as normal. Group B was put on a very strict diet, as Dr. Mercola describes above. The conclusion of this study is that salt is bad for your heart, and not that junk food, a lot of meat and excessive alcohol are bad for your heart, which is what the study actually showed.

In his classic 1988 article “The (Political) Science of Salt,” Taubes wrote:

“While the government has been denouncing salt as a health hazard for decades, no amount of scientific effort has been able to dispense with the suspicions that it is not. Indeed, the controversy over the benefits, if any, of salt reduction now constitutes one of the longest running, most vitriolic, and surreal disputes in all of medicine….

The data supporting universal salt reduction have never been compelling, nor has it ever been demonstrated that such a program would not have unforeseen negative side effects… After decades of intensive research, the apparent benefits of avoiding salt have only diminished. This suggests either that the true benefit has now been revealed and is indeed small, or that it is nonexistent, and researchers believing they have detected such benefits have been deluded by the confounding influences of other variables…”

In this recent study researchers followed 3,681 middle-aged healthy Europeans for eight years. The participants were divided into three groups: low salt, moderate salt, and high salt consumption. Researchers tracked mortality rates for the three groups, with the following results:

  1. Low-salt group: 50 people died
  2. Moderate salt group: 24 people died
  3. High-salt group: 10 people died

However, not all salt is good salt, as it’s not the quantity that can harm you, it’s the quality. Table salt has been fired at 1500 degrees so that it is stable in most climates. Once this salt has been chemically cleaned and processed, it becomes inorganic and very difficult for our bodies to process, whereas unrefined salt virtually identical to the sodium that occurs naturally in our bodies.

Americans spend about 70% of their food budget on processed food and 30% on fresh food. Because processed food and additives contain a lot of refined salt and no potassium, the potassium / salt balance that is critical to health is unbalanced.

According to a recent federal study into sodium and potassium intake, those at greatest risk of cardiovascular disease were those who got too much sodium in comparison with too little potassium. The research, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in July of last year11, was one of the first and largest U.S. studies to evaluate the relationship of salt, potassium and heart disease deaths.

It’s important to understand the sodium / potassium balance. These two nutrients must balance each other in order to maintain correct electrolyte balance and pH values in the body. Potassium comes mainly from fruit and vegetables. Because most people do not eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, and they do eat a lot of refined salt in processed food, the normal balance cannot be maintained. What are the implications of that?

  • Because the imbalance causes acidity in the body, the body becomes much more prone to cancer – cancer can only spread in a relatively acidic environment.
  • In order for the pH balance to be redressed, the body leaches calcium (an alkali) from bones. In the long term, this inevitably leads to osteoporosis.
  • The body cannot process table salt quickly enough, so it neutralizes it with water. Surrounding cells are destroyed in order to bathe and wash the potassium chloride in water, which is then left in the tissues. This leads to swelling (oedema) and cellulite.

So in this case, yes, we can say that too much salt is indeed bad for you, but we are only talking of refined “table” salt, and in relation to the consumption of fruit and vegetables. In other words, if you only use unrefined salt, such as unrefined sea salt or rock salt, and you eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, you are not endangering your health if you just go ahead and add as much salt as your tastebuds dictate.

Mercola: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/09/20/salt-myth.aspx  and http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/03/05/end-war-on-salt.aspx

Oregon State / Linus Pauling Institute: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/sodium

Radiant Health: http://www.radianthealthstrategies.com/healing_power_of_salt.php

So why is it that people are still saying that “salt is bad for your heart?” Please leave a comment below.

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