The Salt Myth – How Much Sodium Should You Eat Per Day?

Woman Adding Salt And Pepper“Salt is what makes things taste bad when it isn’t in them.” – Unknown

Sodium is one of those things that everyone “knows” is unhealthy… kind of like saturated fat.

The government has been warning us about it for decades and has spent a massive amount of resources warning us about the “dangers” of it.

The reason they do so, is that sodium is believed to increase blood pressure, a common risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

These are the two most common sources of death in middle- and high income countries (1).

The major health organizations recommend that we cut back on sodium:

  • United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): 2300 mg (2).
  • American Heart Association (AHA): 1500 mg (3).
  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND): 1500 to 2300 mg (4).
  • American Diabetes Association (ADA): 1500 to 2300 mg.

So… there is definitely a consensus among these organizations that we should aim for less than 1500 mg of sodium per day, and definitely not more than 2300 mg.

1500 mg of sodium equals about 3/4 teaspoons or 3.75 grams of salt per day, while 2300 mg equals about one teaspoon and 6 grams of salt per day.

Most people today are eating much more than that. The average intake of sodium is about 3400 mg, most of it coming from processed foods (5).

If these health organizations have their way, all of us need to make drastic changes in our food choices, start reading labels and start to actively restrict the amount of sodium in our diets.

I have to say, I’m skeptical… these health organizations do have a track record of getting things wrong in the past, such as the misguided low-fat dietary guidelines.

So is sodium really that bad? Do the studies show that reducing sodium intake actually leads to improved health?

And more importantly… if there are benefits to sodium restriction, are they important enough to be worth the obvious reduction in pleasure we will derive from our (now tasteless, salt-free) foods?

Let’s find out…

Sodium – What is it and Why do we Care?

Sodium is a crucial electrolyte in the body. Many foods contain small amounts of sodium naturally, but most of the sodium in the diet comes from salt.

Salt is made of sodium (40% by weight) and chloride (60% by weight).

Woman in Salty Sea

What sodium does in the body is to bind water and maintain intracellular and extracellular fluids in the right balance.

It is also an electrically charged molecule, and along with potassium helps maintain electrical gradients across cell membranes, which is critical for nerve transmission, muscular contraction, and various other functions.

The body can NOT function without sodium. Period.

The more sodium we have in our bloodstream, the more water it binds. For this reason, sodium is thought to increase blood pressure (which it does, but only mildly).

If blood pressure is elevated, the heart has to work harder to push the blood throughout the body and there is increased strain on the arteries and various organs.

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a major risk factor for many serious diseases, like heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.

Salt Shaker and Pile

Reducing Sodium Can Mildly Lower Blood Pressure

It is definitely true that reducing sodium can lower blood pressure, but the effect isn’t as strong as you may think.

In a massive Cochrane review of 34 randomized controlled trials, salt restriction was shown to reduce blood pressure (6):

  • Individuals with elevated blood pressure: A reduction of 5.39 mm Hg systolic and 2.82 mm Hg for diastolic.
  • Individuals with normal blood pressure: A reduction of 2.42 mm Hg systolic and 1.00 mm Hg for diastolic.

Be aware that these numbers are only averages. Some people may have seen impressive reductions, while others little to no effects.

As with most things in nutrition, the results depend on the individual.

Sodium Restriction… Does it Even Work?

Sea Salt in a Bowl

Doctors and nutritionists tell us to cut back on sodium because they believe that it will reduce our risk of serious diseases.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that blood pressure itself doesn’t kill anyone directly. It’s a risk factor, not necessarily a cause of disease.

Even though some intervention successfully lowers a risk factor, it doesn’t mean that this automatically reduces the risk of disease, especially if the intervention causes other adverse effects that outweigh the benefit.

When studies examine the effects of sodium restriction on actual disease, instead of just some marker, no statistically significant effects are found.

Another Cochrane review of 7 randomized controlled trials (the gold standard of research) noted that there is no effect on mortality or cardiovascular disease, even in individuals diagnosed with high blood pressure (7)!

Other studies confirm these findings. There is no benefit to sodium restriction when it comes to preventing heart disease or death (8, 9).

Too Little Sodium Can Cause Downright Harm

Salt and Pepper in Wooden Spoons

The health authorities do have an excellent track record of getting things wrong (10).

They’ve given us a lot of bad advice in the past, such as telling us to cut back on saturated fat and eat 50-60% of calories as carbohydrates.

It looks like the advice on sodium is bad advice too.

Not only is it probably useless for the majority of people, these guidelines may even cause downright harm.

Multiple studies show that salt restriction causes adverse effects on health:

Increased LDL and Triglycerides: In a massive review, low sodium diets were found to cause an increase in LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) by 4.6% and an increase in triglycerides by 5.9% (11).

Insulin resistance: In one study, just 7 days on a low sodium diet increased insulin resistance, a leading cause of obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome (12).

Type II Diabetes: A study found that in patients with type II diabetes, less sodium was associated with an increased risk of death (13).

Hyponatremia: In athletes, a low sodium intake can cause hyponatremia, a sodium deficiency which can be very dangerous (14).

The Importance of Other Dietary Factors

There are many lifestyle factors that can influence blood pressure to an even greater degree than sodium restriction.

Woman Holding Salad

Some of them include the minerals magnesium and potassium, which you should be getting if you eat plenty of animals and plants (15, 16).

Another way is to indulge in a bit of dark chocolate every now and then (17).

A low-carb diet lowers insulin levels, which causes the kidneys to excrete excess sodium from the body (18, 19). Low-carb diets are an excellent way to reduce blood pressure and improve health (20, 21).

And last but not least, exercise is a very powerful way to reduce blood pressure and will improve your health in more ways than you can imagine (22, 23).

It seems fairly ridiculous to me to blindly focus on sodium, when there are so many other lifestyle factors that can have a much stronger effect.

How Much Sodium is Optimal?

Sea Salt, Small

If your doctor has recommended that you limit sodium for whatever reason, then by all means continue to do so.

However, for people who are generally healthy and want to stay healthy, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to be even remotely concerned about moderate intakes of sodium.

Studies actually show that the effects of sodium may follow a J-shaped curve. Too little and too much are both harmful, the sweet spot is somewhere in between (24).

Also be aware that if you’re on a low-carb diet, your sodium requirement may go up.

It is probably best to consume unrefined varieties of salt, such as sea salt and Himalayan pink salt. They also contain various trace nutrients that may be important.

Given that most people get most of their sodium from processed foods and that studies on sodium restriction don’t show any benefit, then I’d like to propose this radical approach to optimizing your sodium intake.

No obsessive counting of milligrams required:

  1. Eat real food.
  2. Add salt whenever appropriate to make your food taste good.
  3. That’s it.

60 Comments

  1. Tanay Gurjar says:

    Please correct the statement- “If blood pressure is elevated, the blood has to work harder to push the blood throughout the body”

    Great article… gives me food for thought.

  2. LeonRover says:

    I leafed thro’ your Ref 5 above and concluded that 3 gm Na and 3 gm K is a good balance – Long life with LoSalt!

  3. Lisa Wolfe says:

    I’m always mystified when my clients who do not have high blood pressure tell me that they have cut down on salt. It’s been pushed so hard that it’s just an assumption that cutting back on salt is healthy. My rule of thumb is that if they are eating real food, salting food to taste isn’t an issue.

    I was amused when I went into the doctor with low blood pressure and she suggested that I eat a lot of salt.

    • Low Blood Pressure is just as significant of an issue as high blood pressure. It normally means low thyroid function accompanied by low adrenal function. It is true that not eating enough salt can cause low blood pressure but it is rarely the sole factor.

    • Lisa, about being mystified at people’s confusion, we are all programmed with presumptions. That is inevitable.

      We cannot program comprehension in schools (or through homeschooling). We can only program presumptions and behaviors (like the reflexive repetition of presumptions on true/false tests). In other words, all presentations of all doctrines (any model of perceiving) is indoctrination.

      We can also provide opportunities (or compulsory assignments) for students to create a hypothesis, collect data, analyze data, and then compare their analysis with the findings of other researchers. However, that method is a “luxury” relative to rapid, efficient indoctrination methods.

      In many industrial societies, there is a tremendous focus on uniformity and compliance, even among “research scientists.” Why? Part of it is a political model of national socialism. That is the idea that 300 million people (for instance) would all join together as an exclusive club to promote their own interests relative to the other 7 billion or so humans.

      So, because there is no “natural” loyalty between 300 million people (who can even move away and change citizenship/residence), there is a fanatical concern with uniformity (with keeping everyone focused on “what is good for the whole” – at least according to the ruling class). That obsession with uniformity (obedience, loyalty) has led to some incredibly unscientific “science.”

      The reality may be that 300 million people are not really working together as an organic system. They are all just the “human resources” of the ruling class, from the “disposable” soldiers to the (equally disposable) public school teachers.

      The ruling class does not want them “too” healthy. They want them to be obedient, dependent, compliant, loyal taxpayers (and consumers).

      If 60% of the masses are addicted to medications by age 55, that is a marketing failure to the rulers. Why not the other 40% too?

      So, the “religion” of national socialism naturally has beliefs (presumptions). The blind faith of it’s followers is in a “science” that, according to leading scientists like Rupert Sheldrake, is not just grossly imprecise and damaging to it’s followers, but is bureaucratically belligerent to actual science.

      Organizations like the FDA are not just frequently wrong and not just damaging to those that follow their religious doctrines, but the FDA makes militant threats against those who question it. It criminalizes science. It even prosecutes people for having heretical conversations, as well as for selling services and products that are threatening to their legitimacy.

      It is one thing to promote low-salt diets. It is another to criminalize the sale of salt. That is the direction that the FDA has been heading. They have left a huge vacuum for some other “authority” to sweep across the internet and the planet.

      We may see a collapse of public confidence in MDs (and public schools) and a return to something organic like “science fair co-ops” in which a bunch of nerds get together for a weekend and actually discuss leading research and even conduct experiments. A grassroots health revolution could also lead to an improvement in brain function (intelligence) and thus to a collapse of many other popular political myths, like what I discuss on my blog.

    • @Lisa a ‘lot of salt’ advice is ridiculous :) I’m guessing it could be dangerous – but I’m not surprised. Another doctor told me to drink coffee :) (long time ago) which I still think is good advice (even though coffee isn’t perfect) for a really low blood pressure (which I have as well). Physical exercise is best, but doesn’t always do the job.

      • Lisa Wolfe says:

        That was my response too. I liberally add sea salt to my food, so I don’t think that’s the issue. I do have low thyroid so I’m more interested in figuring that aspect out.

        • Iodine is essential to thyroid function. Your diet may be high in sea salt, but sea salt doesn’t have iodine. That’s why they created iodized table salt, in order to supplement our diets. Sounds like you’re getting plenty of sodium from the sea salt, but not enough iodine. Low amounts of iodine can cause hypothyroidism.

        • I would recommend Himalayan Crystal Salt. In its unprocessed form it has as much iodine as you need if you use it along with foods that contain iodine.

    • Debby green says:

      I also have low blood pressure and eat a lot of salt. My doctor said, if I was over weight it might be a problem, but as I’m not then just eat it as I feel the need.

  4. I have to say I’m thoroughly befuddled by the statements made in the “AUTHORS’ CONCLUSIONS” section of the 2013 Cochrane review (ref 7):

    “These results provide further strong support for a reduction in population salt intake. This will likely lower population BP and, thereby, reduce cardiovascular disease. Additionally, our analysis demonstrates a significant association between the reduction in 24-h urinary sodium and the fall in systolic BP, indicating the greater the reduction in salt intake, the greater the fall in systolic BP. The current recommendations to reduce salt intake from 9-12 to 5-6 g/d will have a major effect on BP, but are not ideal. A further reduction to 3 g/d will have a greater effect and should become the long term target for population salt intake.”

    I had previously believed the Cochrane collaboration review articles usually “nails it” in terms of the science (and authors conclusions) on a particular issue. Please explain the apparent disconnect, especially in light of their 2011 review (ref 8) which stated:

    “Relative risks for all cause mortality in normotensives and hypertensives showed no strong evidence of any effect of salt reduction. Cardiovascular morbidity in people with normal blood pressure or raised blood pressure at baseline also showed no strong evidence of benefit. Salt restriction increased the risk of all-cause death in those with congestive heart failure.”

    • Yes, the Cochrane reviews are weird like that. Their data analyses are solid, but they often put stuff in their conclusions that isn’t exactly supported by the data.

  5. Yes, your summary at the end is right on. And remember if you are an athlete or work out on a regular basis you need more salt not just to replace what is lost in sweat, but also to optimise performance.

    I have read in places that some people are ‘salt sensitive’ and if this is the case it will have a bigger impact on your blood pressure than if you are not salt sensitive. Have you come across this, and do you know if it is correct?

  6. But isn’t it possible that the recccomandations aimed at lowering sodium intake are aimed at targets regularly eating/consuming processed foods and only read the headlines, and therefore come to the same conclusion as you.

  7. I ate no added salt for years because my parents were told to cut salt because of heart trouble. I did have elevated LDL but was generally healthy to age 70. Then in a routine blood test I found my sodium level was dangerously deficient, low.

    Dr. prescribed sugary electrolyte drinks like gatorade. Not my choice. I started eating salt again. Now whenever I get a headache I eat salt straight and drink lots of water. Usually the headache goes away.

  8. Great post. I see a lot of blog posts about low fat/high carb dietary recommendations being wrong but not so much about this recommendation. It’s important for people to know about this one! Especially those eating low carb. When I first cut out processed foods, I was feeling really crappy and it turned out I was just deficient in sodium. Who knew.

  9. I like the article Kris – I’ve been doing that (cutting on the salt for no apparent reason) as a prevention sort of. I never had high blood pressure (low most of the time) – but due to some bad choices food wise I had rushes of energy as I call them, and salt didn’t help. Once I cut that out, went to more raw, greens I noticed that my body was asking for salt again – himalayan salt is great for that.

    So, what I’m trying to say – I’m guessing it’s all in the ‘balance’ – if you eat junk food it’s hard to say what doesn’t agree with you. If you ‘go green’ and eat real food – salt is not a problem but a very important element.

  10. Loved it ‘cuse I LOVE salt lol.

    I was never quite convinced that it was bad for me, but the doubt was in the back of my head (not anymore lol). By the way, since you seem to know what you’re talking about, can you tell me if there is any real connection between salt and cellulite? ‘Cuse everyone says that eating salt makes the organist retain more water, and creates those “fat bubbles” – is this true? :P

  11. Great article about salt. One thing that I find intriguing is that no one seems to differentiate between table salt and unprocessed sea salt or himalayan salt. The standard table salt is rubbish with no nutrients but full of toxins, this is in stark contrast to the natural sea salt which is packed with minerals that are vital to an optimal functioning body at the cellular level. So the question should be “is table salt bad for our health?” and “is sea salt bad for our health?”

    There is a fixation in research to look at one small action in the body and draw conclusions from that. Perhaps if we asked better questions the research would actually mean something other than the opportunity to make another drug to treat another made up disease.

    • Lisa Wolfe says:

      Good point!

    • Carolyn Jones says:

      “The standard table salt is rubbish with no nutrients but full of toxins, this is in stark contrast to the natural sea salt which is packed with minerals that are vital to an optimal functioning body at the cellular level.”

      Not so. Which “toxins” do you believe are in table salt?

      Natural sea salt is not PACKED with nutrients, it has a minimal amount of minerals that are easily replaced by a good diet. Sea salt has no iodine which is necessary for proper thyroid function. We do not get enough iodine without some sort of an additive.

  12. “So… there is definitely a consensus among these organizations that we should aim for less than 1500 mg of sodium per day”

    Do you know how to read what you write? When an organization suggests 1500-2300mg a day, that means that they think we should NOT aim for less than 1500 mg a day.

    But I guess acknowledging that all the organizations you’re disagreeing with are actually making your point – salt is beneficial in moderate amounts but don’t eat too much or too little – would make your entire post pointless.

    • If you actually followed the links to their recommendations, you would see that they’re referring to these numbers as the upper limit.

      For example, from the AHA: “Aim to eat less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.”

  13. I have to disagree with this article. I had very high blood pressure at 30 years old. 159/98.

    I was eating anywhere from 3000-5500 mg of sodium per day (As an fyi, I never add table salt to anything).

    I started looking at the foods I was eating and kept it under the recommended 2400 mg. I started walking 1 mile per day. That was the only thing, I was watching the sodium. I did lose a little weight but not a lot because I wasn’t watching calories, sugar, carbs etc. Within about 3 months my bp was 108/80.

    So yes, salt does play a huge part in blood pressure.

    • Of course it can vary between individuals. This article isn’t saying that salt has nothing to do with blood pressure, restricting salt does reduce blood pressure, but when you look at many individuals then the average effect is small.

      That being said, sodium restriction doesn’t lead to improved health outcomes, on average, even though it reduces blood pressure.

      But from your description, it looks like you were successful with it. I’m glad it worked for you.

      • One thing I did want to add. Eating less salt every day does quite a few things. Well, at least in my case. When not watching what I was eating, (yes I went down the bad path again) I was always tired, got stressed out quicker, lost my temper quicker and was just all around miserable.

        I have started a new “Diet” if you will. I am on my 5th week and have lost 8 lbs. Since I cut down on sodium I have noticed I have more energy, don’t really get that stressed, and if something gets me riled up, I get over it very quickly.

        I have also pretty much cut out anything with added sugar and I am eating very healthy. Most of the food I eat has naturally occurring sugars, like fruits, veggies, plain non fat yogurt, etc. Plus I am walking everyday. So I still have a long way to go to get to my ideal weight, but I think cutting down on Sodium has greatly improved my overall self.

        • Ev, I congratulate you on your journey toward increased health and encourage you to continue on that path until the day you die. This country is the most unhealthy healthy country in the world and the only way we can correct it is to almost completely ignore the advice of the professional health associations (I am a physician, incidentally) and return back to our natural roots – unprocessed foods and regular exercise.

          With all of the positive things that you are doing for your health, it is at best misguided to conclude that cutting the sodium down really has anything to do with how you presently feel or the weight that you have lost. It is entirely possible that you have salt sensitive hypertension, but it is way more likely that it is the multifactorial effects of all of that crap you have cut out of your diet AND regularly walking are giving you the results which you are experiencing.

          • Bobbi Kane says:

            Good article. I was told by my Cardiologist to lower my salt intake. My BP went to 190 so the MD doubled my Procardio and Colestrol meds. My feet swelled and were ready to burst. I live alone (with a cat – lol), do not cook and either eat out, order in or eat frozen food or canned soups.

            I have now become a “label reader” and am extremely confused.

            What about SEA SALT which you see in many products. Is this better and what numbers should be look at per box or bag?

            Thanks for this very informative article and any additional assistance is greatly appreciated.

          • Sea salt may have some more trace nutrients compared to regular salt, but it should still have the same effect on your blood pressure.

            190 is very high, so I recommend that you do whatever your doctor tells you to do, even if that includes restricting sodium.

  14. I remember when, several years ago, the no-salt people were making the most noise, we were told that the most popular textbook used by these people had been written by a former security guard. While I have nothing against security guards, I don’t believe that they are qualified to initiate a world- shaking diet change.

  15. My father is in renal failure (but not on dialysis yet) and I’m trying my best to reduce sodium in his diet so we can hold off dialysis as long as possible. How many milligrams of sodium is safe for him to eat?

  16. The problem is with table salt, man made salt… we should all be eating pink Himalayan salt or sea salt, none of that processed junk, which is what causes problems. Pink Himalayan salt is actually good for blood pressure.

    • A lot of the supposed pink himalayan salt sold is actually from pakistan and what the mineral content is compared to the genuine himalayan salt is anyone’s guess. Some have gone so far as to suggest lab tests.

      Also, ordinary boring old iodized table salt (which I use) may not be trendy but there are many many people developing iodine deficiencies. What’s good for all things heart related is magnesium and it is probably the most vital mineral that we are all lacking in. I take 450-600mg a day (magnesium citrate).

  17. Interesting article. Really gives me something to think about. So, ideally, how much salt intake would you recommend daily, in terms of mg?

  18. I just stumbled upon your article and I just wanted to say BRAVO! I have been a natural foods private chef for over 16 years and am now going into longevity coaching and I NEVER limit my salt. If you are eating from whole foods you do not have to. In my opinion, it is not the salt that is the problem it is the chemicals in all the pre packaged salty food.

    Even with my clients with severely high blood pressure, my cooking has only helped them, even with a reasonable amount of salt. I only use kosher salt for the most part and also some sea salts but it is absolutely your friend when it comes to cooking!

  19. I’m sure it’s just a typo, but I’m pretty sure sodium ions are electrically charged, not electronically.

  20. The article says:

    1500 mg of sodium equals about 3/4 teaspoons or 3.75 grams of salt per day, while 2300 mg equals about one teaspoon and 6 grams of salt per day.

    The amount of grams is incorrect. It should say:

    1500 mg of sodium equals about 3/4 teaspoons or 1.5 grams of salt per day, while 2300 mg equals about one teaspoon and 2.3 grams of salt per day.

  21. James Norman says:

    Do you have any information regarding the rumor that the most popular No-salt textbook was written by a former security guard?

    Recently, I asked my “kidney doctor” why – if my blood tests indicated that my sodium level was normal – why then do I need a low-salt diet? He answered that the amount of sodium which shows up in a blood sample analysis has nothing to do with the need to reduce sodium intake. He then paused, and continued on with an answer that a politician would have been proud of – he basically dodged my question.

    • Don’t know if it was written by a security guard, but if you have kidney problems then it is best to listen to your doctor. You can also get a second opinion if you’re in doubt.

  22. I read a great book when I was having babies, (33 some years ago) about nutrition in pregnancy. Doctors would (do they still?) really caution pregnant women to watch salt intake.

    This book said eat MORE salt because when pregnant, blood volume is expanded, so you need MORE sodium, not less. Today, I consume tons of salt – Himmie salt (from someone I know – it’s authentic), organic soy sauce, miso, and sometimes fish sauce.

    Diet is whole foods – no garbage, sort of low-carb except for some wine and sprouted grain bread sometimes and my blood pressure is low. If I remember, I take my own salt out to eat which is rare anyway. Great article and great site! Liked your FB page.

  23. I have low blood pressure, 110/60, but a high resting pulse rate, 92. I’ve never been diagnosed with anything but, a couple of weeks ago I passed out (this repeats in my life). When going to the ER they just tell me that I’m dehydrated and need to drink more water. I drink my 8×8 every day and I don’t urinate more than normal, so how am I getting dehydrated? If I add more salt won’t drinking more water just flush out the added salt?

  24. Love this article and it’s refreshing to read something not so bogged down with words that, let’s face it, a lot of us don’t understand.

    I have had great blood pressure (120/70) for my entire life until last week when it read 142/92. It’s been somewhere in the mid-130′s/mid-80′s for the past week now and the doc is watching it for a few weeks before deciding if it’s something she wants to treat with meds or if it’s more stress/diet related.

    I’ve been watching my salt intake, but not necessarily limiting it. I’ve cut out the processed foods and have been eating fresh fruits and veggies and making dinner. If I go out I eat a salad without all the salty stuff and get the dressing on the side.

    I hope it is helping.

    Thanks for this article as it did a bit to easy my mind. :)

  25. I run and bike long distances and I sweat heavily. Lately I have had muscle cramps/spasms, especially in the arches of my feet and in my hamstrings. Do I need to make a conscious effort to eat more salt to offset the loss of electrolytes from sweating?

    • I forgot key information in my original post. My most recent blood test indicated that both my sodium level and my chloride level were slightly low. I drink a lot of water and tea so I don’t think dehydration is possible. I do not use any sugary drinks like gatorade, etc. – so I don’t get any electrolyte replacement that way. Anyway, curious if eating more salt will help with these cramps that have been holding me back in my training.

  26. Kris,

    Love the website, great job! I’ve Googled around and never seen this question answered, I was hoping you could shed some light…

    I’ve been low sodium (around 1500 mg) for a few years now and am trying to add sodium back to diet. The problem is that I get horrible fluid retention… will this pass? It seems like after a while my body should adjust and the higher sodium should become the norm, but I usually give up at 4 to 5 days of feeling like a blimp…

    I’m 28, 5’11″ and around 160 lbs. I work out 3 days a week and jog my dog for a few miles on the other days. I’m also on a low carb, high fat diet.

    Thank you.

  27. This article carries a very dangerous message. It’s got some nice advice but do you have the medical or scientific knowledge to be able to interpret all the scientific evidence that you quote and then disregard?

    You mention that the reduction in blood pressure is only minimal but it is significant none-the-less. Blood pressure medications have a similar reduction effect and have been proven to reduce illness and death rates.

    You are correct in that moderation is key… not too much but also not too little, and that goes for dietary intake of almost everything, including sugars and saturated fat (but not carcinogens). However, if your misinformed conclusions put people off acknowledging the dangers of excessive salt, then you are putting people’s health and lives at risk.

    • I’m just reporting what the research shows. Avoiding processed foods is the key here, these are the biggest sources of sodium and harmful for various other reasons.

      • Mike Alber says:

        I was just listening to a podcast from Stuff You Should Know regarding salt. Funny, they said the range for salt intake should be 3000 mg – 7000 mg. As far as my own findings, the only negative from salt I could read was hypertension. I read hypertension can be caused by the muscles in the arteries constricting the blood. Also, the kidneys will take sodium from your urine and put it back in your body if there is dehydration or massive blood loss.

        Plus, why 2300 mg? Each person weighs different. I’m sure each race has their only tolerance for salt. I’m sure the sex of the person can influence salt intake. Plus, what about plaque in the arteries? I’m sure that would affect blood pressure. Belly (visceral) fat is very bad and produces hormones. As far as what to eat, I think having a blood test is the best way to see if you need to alter your diet. You can say you eat healthy but the numbers in your blood test really predict your health.

  28. “Blood pressure meds have been proven to save lives in people with hypertension, salt restriction has not…”

    Really? This thinking is what lead to my mother’s death. I believe that salt-sensitive hypertension does run in my family. My mother took every blood pressure medicine/diuretic combination, but it remained high. She ended up dying of kidney failure, heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, basically a complete collapse of her cardiovascular system after years of very high BP.

    Now I have the same BP issues my mother had. So far more meds, diuretics, combinations, nothing is working well. I reduced my sodium intake to less than 1000mg/day and my bp has lowered overall from 218/138 (highest reading in 12 months) to 138/90 just last week. It does NOT go down with meds alone. My mother was never given a milligram limit for sodium, by the time those were issued in 2005 she was already in the cardiac ICU and it was too late. She never ate a truly low-sodium diet.

    It’s wonderful that some people can have all the salt they want throughout their whole lives, I envy them, but you can’t extrapolate that to apply to everyone. It varies by person, and some people with certain risk factors (over age of 40, ethnicity, family history of heart disease/high BP) definitely benefit from decreased salt/sodium intake.

    My 70 year old father’s blood pressure is raging high and he’s running through the drug carousel now too. He refused to stop pouring salt on his food, so I (and his doctors) believe it will not come down.

    I think if I followed the NIH report I won’t be around much longer…

    • “It’s wonderful that some people can have all the salt they want throughout their whole lives, I envy them, but you can’t extrapolate that to apply to everyone.”

      If you read a bit more carefully, and especially if you read some of the comments, he most definitely does not extrapolate to everyone. The reverse of your statement is even more true, though. It’s much more responsible to take advice relevant to the general population and apply it to all people, than to take advice relevant to a small subset of people (salt-sensitive individuals) and apply that to the general population.

      He’s talking about the popular general advice regarding salt, which is based on junk science. Despite decades of research in the area, no mechanism has been identified for increased risk of heart disease and salt except in very specific situations like you and your family have experienced. That’s the point.

      You are quite obviously an exception to the general case. He mentions clearly that for a small fraction of people, lowering salt intake does significantly reduce blood pressure. That’s you. You fit perfectly well into his analysis of the situation as-is. You’ve just mis-identified yourself as the general case, when you and your family are clearly in the special case.

      He has also mentioned many times in the comments that, if you have high blood pressure and your doctor tells you to reduce your salt, you should definitely reduce your salt.

      The whole point of the article is only that the general advice about salt is based on correlation data only, which is not something medical advice should be based on, especially for whole populations of people. Correlation just means two things seem to happen together. It cannot tell you whether one thing causes the other, or WHICH thing causes the other, or whether they both have some completely separate cause that affects both.

      To illustrate what I mean, nothing you have said tells me whether your mother’s illness was caused by high blood pressure, or whether her high blood pressure was caused by her illness. These two things aren’t even mutually exclusive. It’s entirely plausible that your mother’s illness caused her blood pressure to spike, which caused her organs to fail. It’s also plausible that her illness caused her body to mishandle sodium, which increased blood pressure, which eventually caused organ failure. It’s also plausible that your mother’s illness led to a sodium sensitivity which itself caused organ failure, and high blood pressure was simply a symptom. It’s also possible that some third factor was responsible for the high blood pressure and organ failure, and sodium had absolutely nothing to do with it.

      In each of these cases, the way you handle dietary sodium is different. In your specific case it seems more likely that sodium itself is somehow causing a problem, so you should definitely follow your doctor’s advice and reduce your sodium intake. For many people in the same scenario, however, lowering sodium does nothing at all for their blood pressure. That’s the point. You can’t extend the advice beyond yourself and your family.

      What we do know for certain is sodium is essential for life. If you cut it out completely, you will die. No if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. Therefore, it is extremely irresponsible to extrapolate from a handful of anecdotal examples (you and your immediate family) and apply advice relevant to that situation to all people. Advice like that kills people.

      This is what makes medical science so hard, especially nutritional science. There are thousands of confounding factors, and it can be extremely difficult to account for them all. Often times the type of study you need to do to nail down a causal link is highly unethical (i.e. giving people a placebo and telling them it’s BP medicine – necessary to conduct a double blind study, but highly unethical).

      Saying “I lowered salt and it helped me” tells me absolutely nothing about whether or not lowering salt will reduce any of my risk factors for anything.

      Also, milligram limits for sodium have been around for decades, so I can’t imagine why your mother was never advised to keep her salt below a set limit until 2005.

  29. What’s this fixation/fascination with pink Himalayan salt some people have? Salt is salt no matter if it comes from the Himalayans, sea or made in a chemical factory. The fact is pink means it has some contamination with something like iron oxide, not that it is healthier than any other salt.

    Some salt sold out there may have traces of other elements but usually they are in a very small quantities. Some of these may be useful, some may be useless. Iodine is an important trace element for the thyroid. Usually salt mined in the Himalayans and anywhere else does not have that Iodine so normal table salt enriched with the element should be consumed and used for cooking.

  30. Jennifer Quinn says:

    Great article – and spot on. Didn’t the guidelines mess up the entire country with low-fat decade?

    I found your article by googling what it means when none of your food tastes salty enough. Do you happen to know? Is this an indication of too much sodium? Or would one be lacking in a different nutrient?

  31. Everyone is different; it is important just to know yourself on a daily basis; know your habits, know your history, know what effects you, etc. There is no standard blueprint for the world… we all have different bodies that have different needs… know that body.

  32. Jennifer – regarding the salty taste… I used to eat in restaurants and at home have frozen/processed foods. I recently went on a low sodium diet. My taste buds have become accustomed to tasting the food, and not the salt. So now when I eat something with even the smallest amount of salt it tastes very salty and not good.

    I have salt-sensitive hypertension and lowering my daily sodium intake has greatly reduced my BP.

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