Shaking up the Salt Myth: The Dangers of Salt Restriction

“In an era when dietary advice is dispensed freely by virtually everyone from public health officials to personal trainers, well-meaning relatives, and strangers on check-out lines, one recommendation has rung through three decades with the indisputable force of gospel: Eat less salt and you will lower your blood pressure and live a longer, healthier life.” Gary Taubes, 1998


In my last two articles, I discussed the history of salt in the human diet and the physiological need for salt. Many proponents of the Paleo diet suggest limiting salt based on evidence of low salt intake during the Paleolithic era. This limitation meshes with recommendations made by various health organizations, such as the USDA and the American Heart Association, who suggest limiting sodium to at least 2,300 mg per day and even as little as 1,500 mg per day. (1, 2) And if our Paleolithic ancestors ate a low salt diet, then it certainly must be healthy, right?

Not necessarily. Recently, evidence has been mounting against universal salt restriction guidelines. A low-salt diet may cause serious health consequences and higher overall mortality, especially in the presence of certain chronic health conditions and lifestyle factors. In this article, I will discuss scientific evidence that contradicts salt restriction recommendations, as well as potential health risks of consuming a diet too low in salt.

Serious health consequences of long-term salt restriction

While salt-induced hypertension is typically blamed as a cause of heart disease, a low salt intake is associated with higher mortality from cardiovascular events. A 2011 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrates a low-salt zone where stroke, heart attack and death are more likely. (3) Compared with moderate sodium excretion, there was an association between low sodium excretion and cardiovascular (CVD) death and hospitalization for coronary heart failure. These findings demonstrate the lowest risk of death for sodium excretion between 4 and 5.99 grams per day. (Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Estimated 24-Hour Urinary Excretion of Sodium and Composite of Cardiovascular Death, Stroke, Myocardial Infarction, and Hospitalization for Congestive Heart Failure

Another 2011 study confirmed this observation; not only was lower sodium excretion associated with higher CVD mortality, but baseline sodium excretion did not predict the incidence of hypertension, and any associations between systolic pressure and sodium excretion did not translate into less morbidity or improved survival. (4)

Low salt diets contribute to an increase in hormones and lipids in the blood. A 2012 study in the American Journal of Hypertension found that people on low-salt diets developed higher plasma levels of renin, cholesterol, and triglycerides. (5) The authors concluded that the slight reduction in blood pressure was overshadowed by these antagonistic effects, and that sodium restriction may have net negative effects at a population level.

In addition, low sodium intake is associated with poor outcomes in Type 2 diabetes. A 2011 study study showed people with Type 2 diabetes are more likely to die prematurely on a low-salt diet, due to higher all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. (6) Additionally, a 2010 Harvard study linked low-salt diets to an immediate onset of insulin resistance, a precursor to Type 2 Diabetes. (7) These studies call into question the appropriateness of guidelines advocating salt restriction for patients with Type 2 diabetes.

Restricting salt is also problematic for athletes, particularly those participating in endurance sports. (8) Recent studies have shown that endurance athletes commonly develop low blood sodium, or hyponatremia, even in the absence of cognitive symptoms. In the 2002 Boston Marathon, it was found that 13% of 488 runners studied had hyponatremia, and studies of other endurance events have reported the incidence of hyponatremia to be up to 29%. (9101112)  While the majority of these sodium deficient athletes are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic with nausea and lethargy, severe manifestations such as cerebral edema, noncardiogenic pulmonary edema, and death can occur. (13) It is extremely important that athletes engaging in high intensity or long duration exercise be sure they adequately replace the salt lost through sweat.

Salt restriction may be especially dangerous for the elderly. Elderly people with hyponatremia have more falls and broken hips and a decrease in cognitive abilities. (1415) Hyponatremia is a common finding in the elderly, with an especially high prevalence in those with acute illness. (16) This is another population at risk for serious health consequences due to universal sodium restriction.

 Why is the government still recommending salt restriction?

Conventional healthcare experts have been recommending salt restriction ever since the 1970s, when Lewis Dahl established “proof” that salt causes hypertension. (17)  In his research, he induced high blood pressure in rats by feeding them the human equivalent of over 500 grams of sodium a day; 50 times more than the average intake in the western world. (181920) Dahl also invoked evidence that cultures consuming higher levels of salt tend to have higher blood pressure than those who consume less salt. (21)

Figure 2. Correlation of average daily salt (NaCl) intakes with prevalence of hypertension in different geographic areas and among different races, from Dahl, 2005

However, when Intersalt researchers investigated this possible association, while controlling for confounding factors, the correlation between blood pressure and salt intake almost disappeared. (2223) For some reason, this contradictory evidence is still being used today to justify restricting salt intake.

In 1998, Gary Taubes wrote an article for Science magazine highlighting the clash of public policy with controversial scientific evidence for salt reduction. (24) He described how most of scientific discord over salt reduction has been overshadowed by the public attention given to the benefits of avoiding salt.

As Taubes explained over a decade ago, “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.” The 1988 Intersalt Study, designed to resolve contradictions in ecological and epidemiological studies, failed to demonstrate any linear relationship between salt intake and blood pressure. Now, in 2012, we have data that suggests long-term salt restriction may pose serious risks for much of the population. Yet major health organization guidelines still recommend the restriction of salt for all Americans, regardless of blood pressure status.

In short, there is a healthy range of salt consumption for most people. When eating a whole foods diet, most people tend to consume an appropriate amount of salt simply due to an innate preference for saltiness. In fact, the consumption of salt around the world for over two centuries has remained in the range of 1.5 to three teaspoons per day, which appears to hold the lowest risk for disease. (25)

Our bodies may have a natural sodium appetite through which our ideal salt intake is regulated. By following a whole foods, Paleo diet, and eliminating processed foods, excess sodium in your diet will be drastically reduced. Thus, you can be confident in following your own natural taste for salt when adding it to your food during preparation. In other words, there are few reasons to deprive yourself of salt!

In my next article, I will discuss the conditions in which salt reduction may be warranted, and nutrients that may be more important than sodium in controlling blood pressure and promoting overall health.

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Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Devin says

    Salt is not the primary reason behind hypertension its too much sugar and water..Hyponatremia is when too much water in the body flushes the sodium needed to function..You cells swells because the salt that regulates the in and out fluids in cells decreased..Salt is eliminated though sweat and urine but sugar stays in until it is burned it up in either exercise or some physical work ..That’s why we have high blood sugar and not high blood salts….Sugar can cause glycation in the body which hardens tissues and sticks to cells like a magnet….Now, I use to eat jars of pickles with salt , saltine crackers, and other salty foods (sauce meats) with no problems….There is no proof that sodium causes high blood pressure and any health issues unless you are not drinking enough fluids especially water..FYI, Too much water is not good for you either its biblical( 1 timothy 5:23), because too much water and low or no sodium your kidneys cant processs water without sodium.. The kidneys will hold that water in your tissues and body and now your bloated with water weight gain and other issues will follow….That B.S. about drinking 8 -8 oz glasses of water a day with no sodium , keep doing it and see what happens!..I was never given a blood sodium test for HBP just the meds and guess what !.. My body was like balloon with water that needed to be eliminated.. Now i.m fine,listen to your body it will tell you if something too is too much or you allergic too something…Stay Healthy

  2. Susie says

    Low salt helped kill my mother-in-law and it almost killed my sister-in-law a couple of years ago.

    I have been helped so much by my salt and water. I use either Redmon’s Real Salt, or Celtic Sea Salt, plus a large glass of water. I take 1/4 at least three times per day with water about 30 to 40 minutes before my meal. Sometimes I take it about 30 minutes before bedtime. I have been doing this over a month now. It has completely stopped my foot cramps and leg pain. I have lost 15 pounds. Look at all the minerals in these salts, which someone mentioned the Himalayan and it’s good, too, then you’ll see how they can help you with electrolyte balance. I think of those has over 80 trace minerals that our bodies need.

    A person cannot survive without salt, period. Try some of the healthier ones. Also check out Water Cures, and that’s helped a lot of people. You can find it typing in Water Cures and Sea Salt.

    • Andrew says

      I am sorry to hear about your family illnesses.

      It is a total myth that people cannot live without NaCl.

      Humanity has done so for tens of thousands of years.

      Sodium should come from plants or the animals that ate the plants. Chloride should come from plants or the animals that ate the plants.

      To claim that a person cannot survive without salt shows a complete ignorance of the subject.

      I and millions of others have experiential proof that you don’t understand the difference between sodium, chloride and salt. These terms are not interchangeable.

      • Kay says

        No, you really, really really need salt in your diet, it is a macro-nutrient and is not that easy to find in diet without occasional supplementation, which is why it seems to make ordinary food more attractive, and dampens down bitter tastes, usually a danger sign for inedible food. It even has a tranquillising effect in prey animals because it is so valuable that that it is worth the extra risk of being preyed upon to get that salt into the system.

        • Andrew says

          Salt has never been an essential compound for human metabolism to function correctly.
          You are totally fooled by a myth.
          Sodium is essential as is chloride. NaCl is not essential and never has been.
          Sodium from plants or the animals that ate the plants and chloride from plants or the animals that ate the plants is where humans derived their sodium and chloride for tens of thousands of years. I have experiential proof that NaCl is not essential.
          As for suggesting that sodium and chloride are hard to find in a diet shows a massive ignorance regarding the sodium and chloride content of fruits and vegetable.

      • Telly Sanchez says

        ‘To claim that a person cannot survive without salt shows a complete ignorance of the subject.’
        Well, this statement proves you are the most ‘ignorant’ on the subject. Perhaps you have not had of the word ‘salt defficiency’.
        Many people have been rescued from looming death by astute doctors wise enough to make immediate prescriptions for more salt intake.

        • Andrew says

          Another ignorant comment from someone who doesn’t understand the difference between salt and sodium.

        • Henry says

          “Perhaps you have not had of the word ‘salt defficiency’ ”

          Err, no I haven’t actually as there is no such word.
          Salt deficiency is a term, not a word, therefore it is an expression used by doctors, quacks, so called health care professionals and a host of sundry members of the public

          Sodium ions and chloride ions are the requisite “salts” that the metabolism requires to function normally. The fact that the average diet is devoid of sodium rich foods from plants or the animals that ate them, is the primary reason for electrolyte imbalance. The quick fix sodium chloride infusion is merely a pharmaceutical stop gap for an inherent sodium deficiency, which will have started shortly after birth when toxic NaCl would have been used on a massive scale by the toxic food industry as a preservative, allowing junk convenience food to remain on the shelves for months. Laced with toxins and devoid of nutrients, this product is well known in stomach cancer circles, after decades of its use instead of ingesting sodium rich foods as the norm. Therefore it is not surprising that some may be deficient of the electrolytes the body rquires

          No one is salt deficient, because the compound NaCl is not part of plasma or blood. True, sodium ions separate from chloride ions have vital roles to play in totally different functions in the blood stream, however to confuse the roles of sodium ions and chloride ions with salt and claim that NaCl is “essential” is not only ignorant, but truly dangerous. The fact that a doctor who is taught to use drugs gives someone a sodium chloride infusion, may assist in the short term, but as usual with pharmaceuticals, they never see the cause, only a symptom. It is a temporary pharmacy fix.
          An infusion of any sodium rich plant juice would have the same effect..
          There are countless numbers of people who have suffered at the hands of drug salesmen.

          Side effects associated with use of intravenous sodium chloride include:
          hypernatremia (high levels of sodium),
          fluid retention high blood pressure, heart failure,
          intraventricular hemorrhage, kidney damage,
          electrolyte abnormalities.

          For as many that are helped by this stop gap, quick fix, countless are suddenly rushed to intensive care. I have personal experience of this disastrous method of meddling with electrolyte imbalance, in the end the chances of living became 50/50.

      • J.R. says

        I find it funny to read comments about lack of salt from “so called professionals,” covered by “50 +” years of study. First off, you need to establish a “baseline” for yourself to determine if you need more or less salt. For instance, I am in my early 30’s, I consume over 3000 mg of sodium/salt a day. I am 6’2, 198 lbs. I workout 6 days a week, 2-3 Times a day. My heart rate is 58-72 beats per minute depending on how sick I am, and I consume roughly 2000 calories a day from healthy whole foods and little to no processed foods (cheese, luncheon meat, some whole grain pasta and whole wheat bread). I drink 16 (8 oz) glasses of water daily, more if training for a large event. I have no sign of hypertension as of right now. I don’t eat paleo, vegetarian, or vegan, I just watch what I eat because of being on a budget (I eat ice cream, donuts, cinnamon roles with cream cheese icing too, hope the wife doesn’t’t read this).
        I did a study for a specialist a couple of years ago. I ran, swam, biked, weight lifted, ate, drank, whatever was asked for the study. I performed like a man in my prime, and still do, as I get older I am getting better, weird?! The secret is to listen to your body to establish what you need, indulge a little, moderation is key with most diets, stay active, be positive. Eat your vitamins and consume minerals, healthy fats, real protein (meat, eggs and/or fish), drink water, and eat carbs! The minute you go to fad diets for any reason other than health concerns, than you are messing with the natural order of things. Organic or budget is the only real choice, and even that is relative. Different things work for different people. Find an organization, federation, association, group or whatever of like-minded individuals and hope what they do works for you if that is your cup of tea. Speaking of tea, I’m going to go grab a nice big cup of sweet tea. I hope everyone finds what works for them, good luck and good health wishes to you.

    • Phil says

      This article is seriously irresponsible. Full of pseudo science and selective statistics.
      All professional medical authorities confirm sodium as the prime factor behind hypertension.
      To suggest otherwise is pure bunk.
      Ignore this article and get your advice from a qualified medical specialist.

      • Andrew says

        Phil, a man after my own heart! I have to say though, that I am definitely a fan of sodium! Reasons are above in the post you replied to, as don’t want endless repetition.

        Sodium from plant sources rich in Na, (celery beetroot) to name two, are to me, a life blood. Utterly essential.

        Excess sodium from sodium chloride in processed junk food is what your quote “professional medical authorities confirm sodium as the prime factor behind hypertension” will be talking about; that is the toxic industrialized additives in salt used by the food corporations. Its ubiquitous use of adulterated and subsequently therefore, unnaturally toxic sodium chloride is the real concern.

        Meanwhile a small amount (half a gram daily approx’) of sodium remains essential. Its process and horribly excessive use as a preservative and seasoning, is our undoing, not the sodium.

      • Telly Sanchez says

        And who are these ‘ professional medical authorities’? You also advised to ‘get your advice from a qualified medical specialist’ Well, my own medical specialist have in many cases been recommending adequate salt intake and in some cases more salt in take for years and the patients including myself have been the betterfor the advice.

      • Sabrina says

        And Die Younger!!!
        Most Doctors who follow their own Medical Advice die younger (like in their 50-60’s). It’s called population control. I had extremely high blood pressure (220/110) and on the advice of a Dr went on a low salt diet (cutting out almost all salt from my diet). I became extremely Lethargic & my Dr didn’t know why. Then I read the book “Your Body’s Many Cries For Water” by Dr Batmanghelidj and tried adding a pinch of salt to my water & it pulled right out of the Letharic condition I was in. We just need to make sure we are drinking enough water to flush out the excess salt. I was chronically dehydrated & needed more water. I have asked around & everyone who uses a lot of salt & drinks a lot of water has normal (low) blood pressure.

  3. Jacobin Girondiste says

    A distinction must always be made between science and advertising. This flimsy assault on salt elimination was paid for by the International Salt Miners Association.

  4. says

    I’ve been on a sodium restricted diet since last Tuesday. After consuming 10 glasses of water on Wednesday, I noticed today that I had symptoms of low blood sodium. I’ve had about 2,430 mgs of salt today, but that still wasn’t enough to raise my levels!

    As I’ve been trying to cut out refined foods from my diet, I want to know how do I naturally raise my salt consumption eating foods like garden burgers (mine happen to be 280 mgs), tuna salads (no salt tuna/vegenaise), and black bean soups?

    Any advice would be appreciated!


    • Andrew says

      What made you drink ten glasses of water?
      You noticed you had “symptoms of low blood sodium” what symptoms, and how do you know that was low blood sodium?

      You say you have been on a sodium restricted diet. Do you actually mean salt ie sodium chloride? If not, why would you want to restrict sodium, it is an essential electrolyte?

      You also say you now want to raise your salt consumption, why? If you are on a restricted sodium diet, how will you maintain that by increasing salt?

      What you absolutely have to be clear about is what are you trying to restrict and why, and what are you trying to increase and why? You also have to be clear on the difference of processed toxic salt ie sodium chloride in packaged junk food, and sodium from plant material, or from animals who have eaten the plants. One is junk salt. the other is an essential electrolyte.

      What is a garden burger? This sounds horribly like American packaged food and therefore full of sodium chloride.

      If your tuna is canned it is full of salt too, so will the beans be if they are canned.

      You really need to be more specific to get good advice.

  5. Karen Williams says

    I’m type 2 diabetic but more importantly I have friend who at 52 yrs old has 10 percent of her that is in working order she needs to be on a no salt diet. I need information on this where are the most reasonable places to per chase this food. I’m sure you are aware anytime your diet require healty eating habits it requires extra money so many of us are on very limited incomes due to illness or no work due to limitations I just wonder if you have any suggestions as boths of us need reasonable solutions to this concern. Thank you

  6. Peter Schroth says

    The link in note 4 to the American Journal of Hypertension doesn’t work, because that journal has moved to Oxford.

  7. Old Fogey says

    I’m glad this topic is being discussed. Now what about the dramatic increase in potassium levels due to substitution of sodium chloride with potassium chloride in foods, especially so-called “low Salt” or “healthy Salt” products.
    I’m led to believe that the body can’t regulate potassium directly, and uses sodium levels as an approximate gauge of electrolytes. If we flood ourselves with potassium and remove sodium, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t live to tell anybody about our mistake.

    • neeta says

      It’s almost impossible to get enough potassium through diet in less you drink gallons of OJ. Using no salt liberally on 3 meals a day may provide about 600 mgs potassium per 1/4 teaspoon. If you’v ever tried the stuff it’s bitter and a heavy sprinklING may net you 1/8 teaspoon at best. So you’d still be well below the Rda of 4700 mgs. I am of the opinion every one is mineral deficient. I suffered chronic fatigue for 4 years potassium showed 3.5 so docs never suggested supplements until I went to a bio identical hormone doc. She put me on microK 8 ME twice a day. I am no longer exhausted or weak! Worked within a few days.

      • Andrew says

        Drinking gallons of orange juice for any reason is an incredibly foolish thing to do as is the statement foolish.
        High levels of fructose or fruit sugar are contained in every type of orange juice.
        All fructose is metabolised by the liver, so an excess of it contributes to visceral fat.
        As a result heavy fructose consumption can lead to cirrhosis of the liver. obesity and cardiovascular damage.
        The damage caused by excess fructose is very hard to spot, because those suffering from it tend not to look fat.
        When you eat a whole piece of fruit, the fructose in it comes equipped with fibre, giving your liver far more time to metabolise it, than with fruit juice.
        Smoothies are not any better, when the fruit is blended the insoluble fibre is torn to smithereens.
        Also “pure” orange juice can be up to two years old!

    • Andrew says

      “If we flood ourselves with potassium and remove sodium, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t live to tell anybody about our mistake.”

      No one in their right mind would suggest removing sodium, an essential electrolyte, from a diet. Industrialised sodium chloride, yes, but not sodium. So the hypothesis is irrelevant.
      The removal of toxic polluted sodium chloride would be beneficial, whilst maintaining intake of plant based sodium, or eating the animals that have consumed plants.

  8. Allan Holtz says

    Fascinating article. I am 64. I started a running addiction at age 43 and since then I have run about 60,000 miles including finishing 40 foot races of 100 or more miles. I also have 38 in-completes at the 100-mile distance. I will be attempting the Lean Horse 100 mile race next Saturday. First when I started running I avoided all fat and had issues with dry skin. Then I added Udo’s Choice oil as a supplement (2 tablespoons 5 days a week). I avoided salt and had issues with cramping during marathons and longer races. Now I consume lots of Succeed S-Caps (NaCl, Na citrate and other electrolytes) during running events of longer than 3 hours. I also do NOT worry about adding salty things like ketchup to some foods when I eat out. I now eat at buffets 3 days a week and at home 4 days a week. I started eating lots of pasta and now I eat very little pasta, but LOTS of lightly cooked vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower, squash – winter and summer types, peas, corn, green beans, carrots, brussel sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, collard greens, swiss chard, asparagus, potatoes, tomatoes), fruit (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, bananas, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple, pears, apples, grapes, peaches, plums), nuts (pecans, almonds, walnuts) and meats, (salmon and some other fish, chicken and turkey (without skin), sirloin steak, pork tenderloin) and oatmeal. I do not eat wheat products or desserts very often. I am 68 inches tall and currently weight 151-154 pounds depending on how much salt I had. My testing suggests I am 10-12% body fat. My blood pressure is 100-115 over 58-65 with a resting pulse of 42-49. My LDL is about 140 and my HDL is about 75. Before I started the running addiction my HDL was under 30 and I weighed 2-=26 pounds more. My glucose is 60-80 and my triglycerides are 90. A combination of exercise and appropriate whole foods (based on individual tolerance) I think will allow anyone’s body to be at their optimum health.

      • Sabrina says

        You are wrong! Some people do care. Like me, some people like to see what others are doing & how their Salt or Low Salt intake compares. I learn from what others say. Yeah maybe he went into a little more detail than was needed but we can still learn from him.

  9. David Boothman says

    Over the past few years I’ve come to think of those responsible for propagating official health advice as clueless bunglers. The problem seems to have started around 1950 and got progressively worse. So when self-appointed experts began recommending salt restriction I immediately smelled a rat and went back to look at the past fifteen years of my own annual blood test data. The result was not unexpected; my sodium level was consistently maintained just below the lower limit of the recommended guideline range. Now, my diet has been anything but consistent over this period so apparently evolution has, as we might expect, equipped the body with a sodium control mechanism.. No doubt the data linking hypertension to salt intake is derived from the few people who the medics see with hypertension problems resulting from a dysfunctional sodium control system. I believe there is even research data to support this conclusion. However when there is insufficient dietary sodium the control mechanism would be unable to function. And this is why for generations farmers have provided unlimited access to salt licks to ensure this problem doesn’t happen. Notably, the animals are simply given access without restriction. Once again we have the bunglers regulating something taken care of by evolution, something they apparently never studied, along with any consideration of all-cause mortality.

    • Samantha says

      Salt licks (a non essential compound as inorganic sodium chloride) have no metabolic correlation to essential organic sodium, a required nutrient.

      NaCl is an addictive substance in pharmacological expression.

      Most farmers would expect and want their herds to remain nearby where an addictive substance was made available.

  10. Angela says

    I have been told and agree not all salt is made the same and sea salt is the best to use. Maybe someday you will discuss the differences? And my mother has it ingrained in her mind we need Iodine salt, is there research on that? I agree our bodies tell us how much salt we need. My 12 year old daughter was constantly putting LOTS of salt on her food. We were always telling her to stop putting so much salt on her food. We had her tested (because she has food sensitivities and we were afraid she was malnourished) She was actually sodium deficient.

    • Samantha says

      Sodium chloride, salt or NaCl, is the worst possible way to satisfy the bodies need for organic sodium.

      No doubt, without an adequate or required abundant supply of an essential nutrient, organic sodium, the nearest evil, inorganic salt, was the only available substitute.

      This salt (sodium chloride) in no way fulfils essential sodium deficiency, it is merely an attempt to grab sodium in any form available, even if that form is second rate, or even toxic, to satisfy low organic sodium.

      In the long run, sodium chloride, instead of abundant organic sodium could be a metabolic nightmare in the making.

      • Kay says

        No, we need sodium chloride, it is the fluid our entire body runs on. Sodium alone doesn’t do. If it did, in emergencies people could be put on MSG drips. But they can’t. We need our internal oceans.

        • Samantha says

          The fluid our body runs on is blood and plasma.

          To claim in your post that “salt is a fluid that our entire body runs on” suggests that you have no knowledge whatsoever of human metabolism.

  11. Evan Eberhardt says

    Dr. Joel Wallach (“Dead Doctors Don’t Lie”) made quick work of the salt paranoia decades ago by pointing out that a salt lick is the first thing put out on farms for cows to have at as much as they want. I also recall watching a show on elephants in Africa that make some epic pilgrimage every so often to a natural salt dense area and gorge on salt. Yeah, clearly it’s deadly! Yet another Western medicine backwards piece of garbage advice. But that is the bulk of Western medicine, so one can hardly be surprised.

    I do have some reservations for refined salt however and personally only use Himalayan or other naturally occurring sea salts.

    • Sebastian says

      Under the headline “drug addiction” the medical world has exclusively been interested in psychoactive drugs. For diagnosis of substance dependence (addiction), seven criteria apply and fulfilling at least tree of them signifies addiction. When studied, salt intake according to these criteria, it is seen that most of them are fulfilled, showing that sodium chloride, which is not classified under the psychoactive drugs, is capable of producing addiction. Animals may become addicted.

    • George says


      I am sure you will not, a year later read this but HOW in the Hell do you get a Himalayan “Sea salt”.? Himalayas are WAY up in the mountains..

      For thousands of years mankind has followed animals to find where salt could be found. Many towns and cities were founded close to “saltlicks” salt rich soil.

      Those of you who say you can live on the salt in your diet would die because if there WERE no salt for an animal to lick, there would be no animals for you to get salt from their meat. THEY would have died off for lack of salt.

      As to those who say “natural salt is good”, it is ALL natural. Mined. There are salt domes that contain millions of tons of salt worth billions. Some are pure white, NaCl. Eating salt some are different color, Mg, Mn whatever the only source of some of the strategic metals we need. You want pure seasalt, go to India buy what Go fought the British for,the right to gather salt off the sea. It did not pay tax, so it was forbidden.

      Most of the world has been financed by salt, whether by tax or by selling price. Absolutely vital to human life or the animals we eat. Salt is salt. Did we grow up on Potassium Chloride, I think NaCl would taste off.

      So many of you say that you are medical people, I doubt you are, else you would not be here.

      Google makes us all so smart, does it not? You may not understand what Google says, but you can damned well mimic it.


          • Nicholas says

            You are talking absolute rubbish, no animal or human dies because they don’t ingest NaCl.

            I don’t ingest any NaCl and I am alive ok!

  12. Nichol says

    Reference number 5 link to the 2012 Journal of Hypertension article doesn’t link to anything specific. What issue was it from? I’m a nursing student and would love to read the entire article. Thanks!

  13. says

    I’ve been told by people who are not medical professionals that not all salt is created equally and should all be consuming the Pink Himalayan Salt as it is in some ways better salt.

    Is this true? If so, how is it better?

  14. says

    Yes, I have seen the effects of an inappropriately low-salt diet in some of my patients.
    It is particularly an issue for those with depleted adrenals. Poor adrenal function means they produce less cortisol and less aldosterone, which is needed to reabsorb sodium. And of course cortisol and aldosterone are built on a backbone of cholesterol. For some people improving fat digestion is the key that makes a difference.

    • Sebastian says

      With salt reduction, there is a small physiological increase in plasma renin activity and aldosterone. So might this actually be of benefit to your point about weak adrenals and lack of aldosterone?

      Instead, NaCl whips up adrenal activity, but is there much point to flogging a tired horse?

      Much better to feed it daily with nourishing organic salts of sodium, than suspect NaCl

      Fat digestion might simply be giving the permeable cell the correct fats first? So adjust two food stuffs and a number of issues might resolve themselves?

  15. Basel Shishani says

    In the studies you have referenced, was iodine in salt controlled for? For many in western countries iodized salt would be the main source of iodine in diet, which begs the question whether the correlations shown are linked to sodium or iodine.

  16. Nadine says

    Salt restriction + drinking large amounts of water (which is what is recommended) can’t be a good combination.

  17. pone says

    Someone please help me with the conversions here. The study Chris cites indicates 4 to 6 grams of salt excreted in urine per day is associated with lowest CVD risks. They are measuring by weight and not by sodium density? It’s a strange way to express this from urine measurement?

    By my calculations, one teaspoon of salt is roughly 4.8 grams of weight, so basically this study is saying that one teaspoon per day is a reasonable target intake?

    • Henry says

      Anyone excreting 4 to 6 grams of sodium chloride daily will sooner or later run into serious glomeruli filtration problems.
      500mgs of natural sodium from plants is plenty for the day, unless you are metabolically challenged and need a little more.
      You will also get your necessary chloride from plants.
      The RDA of salt requirements is a figure for corporations to exist, whilst their food sits on shelves. It is not a figure for human requirement, simply money driven, and sanctioned by bodies that are basically “owned” by billion dollar industries.

      • pone says

        Do you have a citation for glomeruli filtration problems? There are a lot of Paleo people doing more than four grams of sodium a day and not showing any adverse effects.

        • Henry says

          Hello Pone you say:

          There are a lot of Paleo people doing more than four grams of sodium a day and not showing any adverse effects.

          Four grams of salt or sodium? And how many years have the Paleo people been ingesting?

          The reason I am asking is you have mentioned:

          “The study Chris cites indicates 4 to 6 grams of *salt* excreted in urine per day ”

          Are we talking salt or sodium re quantities?

          • pone says

            My bad, we are talking salt. I was just asking for citations showing 4 to 6 grams of sodium chloride excretion would cause the problem you cited.

            • Henry says

              Effect of dietary sodium chloride on the development of renal glomerular and vascular lesions in hypertensive rats.

              Liu DT1, Birchall I, Kincaid-Smith P, Whitworth JA.


              1. The hypothesis that high levels of NaCl in the diet aggravates hypertension-associated renal vascular lesions was examined in unilaterally nephrectomized deoxycorticosterone acetate treated (DOCA) and two kidney one clip (2K1C) hypertensive rats, as well as normotensive controls. 2. High NaCl diet significantly increased systolic blood pressure (SBP) in DOCA rats, but had little effect on SBP in normal control rats, and did not affect the rise of SBP in 2K1C rats. 3. High NaCl diet was associated with a higher percentage of glomerular lesions and renal arterial and arteriolar lesions in DOCA and 2K1C rats (P < 0.05). 4. Thus high NaCl intake exacerbated renal arterial and arteriolar and glomerular lesions in both DOCA and 2K1C hypertensive rats. In 2K1C rats this effect may be in part independent of blood pressure.
              PMID: 8306519 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

              I grant you the 4-6 grams aren't indicated, but this amount of excretion and therefore intake of toxic NaCl is in my opinion, high, in fact very high. I am sorry the figures that you or I quoted, are not included, but in the spirit of saving one's kidneys from the eventual slow but sure damage in later life, that I have personally witnessed, 4-6 grams of salt is a high intake for anyone, even the metabolically challenged; who would be far better off using Organic salts of sodium from plants, which are the essential nutritive cellular sodium requirement, and not to substitute this with the short term gain, but long term damage of NaCl.

  18. Andie Paysinger says

    During the 1960s I worked for an internist, Irwin Salkin, M.D., F.A.C.P., who wrote an article that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and detailed problems seen in patients where salt restriction had been extreme.
    I typed the document but do not retain any of the details after so many decades, but find it interesting that recent, widely quoted, articles detail findings similar to those he noted some FIFTY years ago.

  19. Mike says

    Thank you for this. I’ve been on a low salt diet due to high blood pressure and I’m now going to start rethinking that. I’ve had aches and pains, have noticed my heart beating harder than normal, and have generally felt fatigued and crummy ever since starting on the diet. It now seems that low sodium may be the cause. I also found a very informative New York Times article about this topic:

    • Sebastian says

      The problem with that interesting link, is that their is no mention of whether the salts in question were organic from plant base material, equalling useful metabolic sodium, or from inorganic salt, less useful for human metabolism.
      Rock based minerals are not so readily or easily absorbed by the body as plant based minerals. Plant based material fulfils all the electrolytes for a reasonably healthy person, and are the correct organic source for sodium and other salts.

      • Andrew says

        How did you come by this idea? I keep hearing people going on about plant-based this or that and can’t think of a single reason why the feel plant sources to be superior. There are good moral grounds perhaps but scientific and health grounds seem highly unlikely. Plus, there is no such thing as organic sodium.

        • Sebastian says

          Moral grounds are a reason to get minerals and electrolytes from plant based food?

          Well, perhaps they are for some, fine by me.

          As for the false notion that there is no such thing as organic salts of sodium, how has humanity in antiquity survived without the essential?

        • Samantha says

          Photosynthesis combines photons with inorganic matter to create organic matter, also known as plants.

          Do you think that powdered nails are a good source of iron for the body?

          • Andrew says

            Well, yes, powdered nails are a perfectly acceptable source of iron for the body. In fact, most fortified breakfast cereals contain iron filings (your powdered nails) and these dissolve in your stomach acid and are absorbed and used. Why on earth would they not be? If you doubt this,get a good magnet and put it against the side of a packet of cereal and shake it – you’ll see the “powdered nails” collect against the inside of the packet. Also, the distinction between organic and inorganic is basically a formal distinction between two branches of chemistry, and not somehow something different about the matter involved. So the sodium ions from any source are indistinguishable once they enter solution in your bloodstream. Finally, photons are immaterial particles whose role in photosynthesis is just to supply the energy for the matter (both organic and inorganic substrate, by the way) to be converted from one form to another.

            • Sebastian says

              I thought you would be an advocate of heavy metal acceptance in junk food. None the less, thank you for the response, I really do appreciate it.
              We will never agree. and come from totally opposing schools of thought.
              I will never choose to get my minerals from any other source than plants. The cell membrane is far too important to be plaguing it with ferrous from ground up nails.
              The chemical reaction may be the process or concept which fools people into believing that iron from nails is ok but the cellular response is in no way the same.

              Finally, photons are not “immaterial” particles. “Their role in photosynthesis is to supply the energy for the matter (both organic and inorganic substrate, by the way) to be converted from one form to another”… Exactly, converting disorganised inorganic salts, into organised organic salts.
              I wish we could meet, because these posts are limited for various reasons, and we can endlessly put varying views, but will always fundamentally disagree. I am tired of the way scientists view food, they gave us hydrogenated fats for decades, convinced the science was good, only to discover in fact, a toxic, lethal cellular disaster
              If you would like to swap a link, that would be a nice conclusion.
              I think this one among many is interesting.

            • Samantha says

              “Even early nutritionists made an error in reasoning, by assuming that a chemical similarity in minerals also meant there was a nutritive similarity between organic and inorganic minerals. While it is true that the same minerals found in the human body are also found in the soil and water it is wrong to assume that the minerals in the soil are food for man. We are not soil eaters—we are plant eaters.

              It is necessary that the minerals in the soil be elaborated into organic compounds by the plant before they can be |assimilated by the body. The various mineral compounds produced by the chemist differ in their structure and in the relative positions of their component molecules than those produced in the plant.

              Over sixty years ago a German scientist named Abderhalden conducted a series of experiments comparing how several species absorbed different forms of iron. He found that animals fed with food poor in iron, plus in addition of inorganic iron, were unable in the long run to produce as much hemoglobin as those, receiving a natural iron-sufficient diet.

              While the inorganic iron may be absorbed into the body, it is not utilized in the formation of hemoglobin, but remains unused within the tissues. Abderhalden also concluded that any apparent benefit of the inorganic iron resulted from its stimulating effect.

              Chemically, it is true that iron in the bloodstream and iron in nails are the same and that calcium in rocks (known as dolomite) is identical to calcium in the bones.

              However, it is a grave error to believe that the body can digest and assimilate and utilize powdered nails and crushed rocks.”

          • says

            Very distressing to hear so much cog dis coming from I’m sure intelligent people. There are at least 3 very different meanings to “organic” – including carbon, approved pesticide-free (etc), bound to carbon-based life-forms. There are many ways of “binding” inorganic minerals to biological use – including IN THE GUT of animals that consume them, assuming an appropriate bio-flora. Since ALL SUCH USE IMPLIES SOME POINT OF BINDING – I find it inconceivable that inorganic salts of Sodium and Chloride should have either toxic or no use to animals directly – including human beings.
            AND THE REASON WE ARE HERE instead of the other twenty sites I have open – is because the med sites are COMPLETELY AVOIDING THE SUBJECT. True…!

      • Kay says

        Presumably your plants get their salt from minerals as salt is just a mineral. I think you might be saying that if you get all your salt from plants and don’t add it directly from a mineral source it is beneficial but I don’t know why that should be.

  20. says

    You mentioned in the previous instalment that the potassium / sodium ratio may play an important role. I can’t help but wonder if a salt restricted diet is only detrimental when consuming small amounts of potassium as well. I don’t have time to check all the studies you referenced, but I wonder if that was the case for those participants. Someone that is exercising salt restriction but still sticking to low-sodium processed foods would most likely be not consuming a lot of potassium. Conversely, someone consuming whole foods (no salt added) will be getting lots of potassium while still not getting a ton of salt.

    • Henry says

      I’m not surprised. I eat nothing processed and live on vegetables fruits nuts seeds. Haven’t eaten sodium chloride for years. Get all the sodium and other “salts” from diet. Unless you are metabolically challenged there is enough sodium in above diet. Sodium and salt are not interchangeable terms.
      As for farmers using salt licks, this has no bearing on metabolic needs, as like humans, animals can become addicted to sodium chloride. They certainly wouldn’t die without it, neither would an ordinarily healthy human. I have experiential proof, as does the naturopath mentioned.

        • Henry says

          Ignorance on a massive scale.

          No vegetables or fruits contains NaCl

          Vegetables and fruits contain sodium as an individual electrolyte and they contain chloride as an individual electrolyte. This in no way equates to vegetables or fruits containing salt.
          Salts of sodium yes, salts of chloride yes, but they most certainly do not contain a compound NaCl.

          • JH says

            Suspect you’re right if only because Sodium Chloride works pretty well as a weed-killer. That should tell anyone something.

  21. says

    I can’t seem to find a link to articles you subsequently write on certain topics. For example, in this article you said, “In my next article, I will discuss the conditions in which salt reduction may be warranted, and nutrients that may be more important than sodium in controlling blood pressure and promoting overall health.” Is it possible that once you have written that article you could provide a link at the end of the previous article so that readers can follow the topic extensively? It would help immensely. Unless of course you already do and I’m just way too blind to see it :-)

  22. steve says

    I have severe pain in my knees and hips and recently been getting cramps in my fingers and calves, I sauna almost every day, could my symptoms be caused by lack of salt due to sweating. I am male, 55, and otherwise fit and well. My G.P. is useless and just keeps saying “wear and tear” keep taking the pain killers, I’d rather have a cure. Can anyone help please?. steve

    • Lisa says

      Yes! Eat tons of animal fats from pastured animals (grass fed) and bone broth (using organic/pastured animals) with lots of gelatine (you can add chicken feet) – you need to nourish and moisturize your bones and joints from the INSIDE! and get off the painkillers, get off the pharmaceuticals, without getting into big details here, they are making the problem worse.
      don’t take it from me, watch the oiling of america on you tube for free by sally fallon, watch anything by the following people:
      sally fallon and mary enig
      lierre keith, the vegetarian myth
      the catalyst show episodes called heart of the matter
      watch lectures by dr. sinatra, underground wellness,
      google anything regarding the cholesterol myth and about butter being GOOD for you. And of course right here on Chris Kresser, he goes into lots of detail in his articles about this.

      Just stay the course because it takes a while but this is really the key. Also another great tip is to have half a teaspoon of fermented cod liver oil – fermented! any health food store.

      I really hope you are not avoiding healthy fats. They WILL heal you. WILL.

      Good luck.

  23. coleman says

    i developed type 2 recently and was adviced to go on low salt diet. After six months my health started deteoriating badly,Problem with my vision, general weakness and also develop a huge appetite. Always having aches all over my body. I collapsed with driving one day and was ambulanced to the hospital ,to recomend low salt. I knew there was something wrong with my salt level. I told the doctor how i might need salt. Immediately i was given salt intravenously, i became o.k. I started adding salt to all my foods even my morning milk . I discovered after a week saltrying my foods. i don’t experience insulin surge again and i went to do my blood test and the diabetes symptoms all gone.
    I love this article of this writter. please tell the whole world that low salt diet is the cause of early death. The paleolthic people were never highly populated. May be because of low salt diet makes them to die young and also infertile. My wife has not conceived once since our 8yrs marriage living on low salt diet. A month of living on high salt diet gives her the conception she’s having now.

  24. says

    I have been on a no salt diet for some time, meaning no salt at all and i have to disagree with many things that are stated in this article. First of all the studies talk about a danger in a low sodium diet, but here the author is equating salt as the only source of sodium in a diet, implying that if one does not eat salt then one will not have enought sodium in their diet. This is definetly not true, as there are many good organic sources of sodium out there, celery being one example.. and humans are the only ones that apparently ‘need’ salt while most animals can go well without it.. plus salt is a mineral.. not organic source meaning the body does not assimilate it.

    • Carol says

      I agree. I don’t add salt to my food nor eat processed foods and NO restaurant foods. I looked at the sodium content of foods I eat and I still get sodium.
      I don’t crave sodium or i would eat it.
      I crave certain restaurant food and processed food I used to eat. When I eat them, like the ridiculously salty cookies at whole foods, then unpleasant symptoms occur.
      The unpleasant are numerous. I haven’t noticed any unpleasant no-added-salt symptoms. What would they be?

    • Andrew says

      Well said, the most basic and simple truths are that plants have organic sodium in abundance. For the average person, not metabolically challenged by health problems, plant based sodium would always suffice electrolyte needs.
      If we are metabolically challenged, then the plant kingdom has all the earths minerals to help set the balance right again.

      • Kay says

        Please, please, please remember that your body doesn’t just require sodium, it requires sodium chloride. MSG has a bad reputation. Nothing too awful about it other than it makes people cut out sodium chloride. Sodium alone can raise blood-pressure in a a subset of people, please don’t try and consume sodium and cut out sodium chloride. Sodium alone does nothing good for you whatsoever

        • Andrew says

          You don’t understand the body’s requirements for electrolytes.

          Sodium is essential in its own right!

          Chloride is essential in its own right.

          It is not a case of “consuming sodium and cutting out sodium chloride.” It is about consuming sodium and consuming chloride as individual electrolytes. Sodium chloride (NaCl) is not essential for life. I don’t consume it. I am active, fit, healthy and don’t ingest NaCl. I am still alive! Get it?

  25. Greg says

    Good article. Those studies are still just correlations. For references 3-4, as well as the others you mentioned, sodium/electrolyte excretion is NOT synonymous with salt intake. That’s an important distinction to make because those studies only showed that sodium/electrolyte excretion has a “sweet spot” for CVD. For reference 5, the last thing any physician in their mind would do is to suggest increasing salt intake for hypertensives. The sodium/potassium balance may be the real culprit, among other possibilities…For references 6-7, diabetics obviously have to urinate more because of excess sugar in the bloodstream. A low-sodium diet in this case would obviously be the opposite of what is needed. According to TCM, the kidney-adrenal function weakens in old age, and salt acts to stimulate the kidneys. Therefore, the elderly do benefit from a moderate amount of salt and a low-sodium diet would be contraindicated.

    I must respectfully disagree with you about the salt/hypertension connection. According to TCM and Western Medicine, if you (or any other animal for that matter) consumes too much salt, it will most definitely increase your blood pressure, put strain on your heart muscle, and long term, it will damage your kidneys among other things. Fact is, the reason why the government imposes an upper limit of 2300 mg/day, as you mentioned, is that processed food is loaded with sodium, which is used as a food preservative. It is my understanding that Americans consume on average, way more than the recommended limit because of widespread usage of processed and junk food. The last thing anyone on a SAD diet should do is to increase their salt intake.

    Salt requirements vary widely by individual. But 1.5-3 teaspoons is quite high! In the long run, you risk numerous health complications. For those on a meat-centric paleo diet, salt intake must usually be higher to compensate for the excess of meat. Salt is alkalizing and lubricating and is therefore craved by those eating too much meat, which is what paleo entails. (There’s a reason why every steakhouse has a large salt-shaker on the table and Japanese people have been eating fish with soy sauce for centuries) TCM indicates as much. Whole, unrefined sea salt used in moderation in conjunction with a vegetarian grain/vegetable-based diet is beneficial, however.

    • Pone says

      You are not analyzing this correctly.

      First, my blood pressure when sodium is normal is 119 / 71. When I get low sodium my pressure jumps to 150 / 88. My pulse goes very high and I lose glucose control. So the first problem with your post is that you only look at what high sodium can do and you fail to address what low sodium can do. My low sodium went undetected by four doctors for three months and destroyed my health. I was on about 1/2 teaspoon per day.

      Second, you are committing the fallacy of designing the diet to treat the symptom without first understanding is the symptom the result of the diet. The hypertensive may be suffering because of low sodium. The correct solution for that patient is to normalize sodium levels.

      Here is how scary my low sodium became. If would walk for one hour low intensity and then drink water to satisfy thirst. But because of low sodium kidneys excreted all that water quickly. I would spend entire nights every hour getting up desparately thirsty and drinking, immediately urinating, never resolving dehydration. If would describe these symptoms to multiple doctors and not one could figure it out.

      It resolved immediately by adding salt to diet.

      • R.Rangarajan says

        I fully agree with Mr Pone’s situation…I have been going through similar situation for last few months…While Blood serum levels are about 135 for me,if I increase salt intake,the symptoms like palpitations etc vanish…Although BP is under control only with medication

        • Lisa says

          It’s true that we analyze quite a bit with absolute thinking and assuming we will all react the same.
          We have a very complicated set of different measurements, one thing creates another reaction, etc. Some laws or behaviours for how certain body parts and chemicals work may be the same but our starting points within our bodies vary WILDLY. We are like different types of cars with different types of engines where some parts work well and others work differently, the gears and belts may all generally operate the same, but the current state of ones parts and fluids are never identical to the other, plus wear and tear and enviro exposure is totally different! So keeping with this analogy, a mechanic cannot apply the exact same remedy to each vehicle with all these varying situations thinking it will all be the same result. it’s not logical! It doesn’t work for us either to say “all humans should stick to this amount of salt intake, period”. Some absorb more than others based on soooo many different factors, some just can’t retain it, some are not eating it, some are eating the wrong kind, or different kinds, some have more celery than others, added salt is different from inherent salt, plus testing isn’t always accurate because of factors – a test might indicate it’s there, but can’t indicate if it’s actually being used properly by the body? how can that be tested completely accurately? SOOO many factors.

          Also, One man’s meat is another man’s poison. perhaps one body just functions better at a different level. We already know that’s true.

          So arguing and accusing or whatever can really be a waste of energy just rile us up for no reason.

          Best thing we can do is share ALL the info, as much info as possible and let each person do their own research and determine what’s best for them. Become our own health managers.

          Good luck people .

          • Sebastian says

            Wonderfully considered comment and I thank you for that. I would like to add one point re the mechanic analogy, with which I whole heartedly agree.
            He would of course, no matter at all, what the engines symptoms were, never put contaminated oil or petrol in the engine if he could help it.
            So hopefully everyone would follow suit and never put contaminated, industrialised and processed junk food salt in their bodies, whatever their health. Same choice available as the mechanic. So often a different choice made by humans.

      • Henry says

        Glad you are better, but sodium and salt are not interchangeable terms, which is a huge problem in arguing “salt” needs. Actually humans need “salts” especially organic sodium. Sodium chloride is not a necessity for survival if equal amounts of organic sodium are used.

      • Kay says

        That is very common. My husband is in the same situation and was advised in hospital to up his salt consumption.

  26. Dianaedd says

    Frequently, the elderly people who have low sodiums are sickly, taking a lot of meds including ones that lower their serum sodium (such as diuretics), so it may be a stretch to say that the low sodium causes their problems primarily.

  27. jackie says

    also, it’s weird, because even though my sodium levels have been low for the past few years, i didn’t crave salt and always had to remind myself to salt my food. hm……?? i crave sugar more.

    • Lisa says

      Jackie, have a look at Dr. Natasha McBride’s you tube video talk called Food is the best Medicine, and if you can find it there’s another great interview she does with dr. mercola where she explains very well how processed foods with their chemicals have been DESIGNED to have that bliss point flavour that addicts us to precisely a can of some specific soda, or specifics foods like a pizza pop – a trademarked secret recipe food, and turns your brain into an addicted brain, where your natural cravings that really reflect what your body actually needs, is totally put on manual override by these chemicals so you will crave THEIR food and go buy it.

      Not that I am accusing you of eating processed foods, obviously you would not be here on Chris Kresser’s site :) but I am wondering/ musing even just for myself, if a history of eating processed foods even for a short period of time in our teenage years or at birthday parties or friends houses messed up our young developing brains and if we could still be healing from this derailed neurology.

      Just a thought I had while I read your post about you consciously adding salt, while still craving sugar.

      Good on you for being aware and conscious about these issues. Good luck

  28. jackie says

    i personally eat a lot of himalayan salt because my blood sodium level is chronically low (maybe because of adrenals?), but i just listened to an interview of charlotte gerson, of the famous gerson cancer therapy, and she says NO salt, ever. she is super healthy at age 90 or 91. so i guess just as tyler above said, everyone’s different. :-)

    • Lisa says

      jackie I am so glad you brought up this topic of the gerson therapy. I was a totally believer in it and embarrassingly was recommending it to anyone and everyone to look into, and now I understand that a) as you said everyone’ different (one man’s meat is another mans’ poison) and and b) I have learned from other sources that a veggie juicing diet is just a cleansing one, to cleanse from toxins.
      gerson protocol doesn’t advocate sugar which I agree with but I don’t believe gerson protocol is a good idea beyond the cleansing period. She advocates as a life style.
      I surprise myself because I was such a staunch believer in being a vegetarian and did NOT want to believe gerson might not be the miracle I thought it was. But I have since learned it can be a great healer just for the detox period, and I would rather step down and realize I was wrong about vegetarianism and veganism when I finally accepted the cholesterol/diet/heart evidence.
      it’s a relieve to live with the truth instead of my pride…
      anyways, good point jackie!

  29. says

    I’ve often wondered about salt. Since paleolithic man ate low amounts of sugar, wouldn’t it be similarly wise to reduce intake of salt likewise? Keep up the good work, Chris, very interesting.

    • Lisa says

      Good point, I used to be worried about salt intake as well however himalayan salt and sea salt have trace minerals we evolved with and need for our bodies, and have been abundant in many materials on the earth throughout human history. The exposure and necessity of salt is totally different than that of sugar. Firstly, sugar was only available from honey and sweet fruit which was rare (because fruits are sweeter today than they used to be – they are hybridized to be bigger and sweeter) plus they only were available once a year- when they fell off the tree, and fattened us up for the winter famine when less food was available). We live in abundance now with so many crazy choices for food available 24/7/365. We have to eat the way our bodies evolved to eat. So my opinion, based on the facts we have available to us, the research, the articles, is that we must limit sugars as much as possible and if we did eat it, have a tart whole piece of fruit with the fibre and flesh, not juiced, if we want to eat it at all (it’s not necessary at all actually) and salt – yes – eat the himalayan salt or at least sea salt or utah salt – NOT the processed table salt. Again, we’re back to avoiding denatured processed foods aren’t we? Eating as whole and natural and historical as possible right?
      Same thing, same thing, same thing.
      Sugar bad, healthy salt good. Once we reset our brains (avoiding processed food and grains) by letting our neurology guide our tongues/cravings and tastes, your body will very intelligently do the job of telling you when you need salt or when you’ve had enough. That’s what our bodies had always done – guide us with our tastes, then the processed crap messed up our neurology and made us addicted to garbage and chemicals. Great talk by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride called Food is the best Medicine and she explained this neurology craving topic very well.

      GOOD luck and enjoy!

  30. says

    Chris, this is overall good advice – but most of the endurance athlete studies that you cite acknowledge that plasma sodium levels were often maintained, but the issue was overconsumption of hyoptonic fluids – in other words – drinking too much water and/or sports drinks during the event, effectively diluting the body’s fluids. Noakes himself will admit that sodium supplementation is not necessary, even for long, hot and humid events, due to endogenous sodium stores and decreased loss via kidney excretion.

    • says

      Good observation. I believe over consumption of fluids, particularly water, is actually a much bigger problem than most think. It’s under most people’s radar. Matt Stone has done a great job reporting on it and what can be done about it. Dilution of the fluids at the cellular level causes people to dump water – causing symptoms such as a very strong urge to urinate, anxiety, adrenaline rush, light headedness, fatigue, etc. This can be a devastating problem for people who have metabolic issues, hypothyroidism, “adrenal issues”, etc.

      People should check out this interview with:

      • Kay says

        Totally agree. Very few people die of lack of water but do die of lack of salt(s). If really dehyrated you need electrolytes and fluids, not water. And in general, drink just enough water and a tiny bit extra, in hot weather or working hard carry water and salty snacks with you.

    • says

      I wouldn’t get wrapped up in any diet rules out there. Everyone is different and each person’s body demands different foods, ratios, nutrients, etc. in it’s own unique way. Subscribing to set diet rules and recommendations is like driving down a road blind folded. Sure there are some great general guidelines to follow such as eating whole natural foods and staying away from PUFAs, gut irritants, etc. But it’s important to listen to your body’s needs and follow through with them. If you’re craving more salt or carbs .. it’s a good idea to follow your intuition.

      • ChrisG says

        I have to disagree with the intuition approach. I cut back on salt because I was eating it like a food unto itself. Routinely salting salty cheese, and.eating salt by itself, etc. And apparently my body “needs” a lot of wine and pancakes too. With those sort of cravings, a few rules can keep things from getting crazy…

        • says

          Right, if you find yourself indulging in processed food at every meal or binge drinking, you’ve probably got some other issues to work out. Every now and then, in my opinion, it can be very beneficial to let yourself go and destroy a stack or 2 of pancakes or order that large pizza and take it down followed by some good craft beers. That can actually do wonders mentally.

            • Rob says

              Tyler and ChrisG –

              Your “cheat day” is really a gambling-for-a-stroke day. It’s a embolism-to-the-brain day.
              Find the largest hospital in your area and visit the stroke rehab ward.


    • Andrew says

      Industrialised table salt is metabolic poison.
      Sodium requirements can be satisfied by eating or juicing sodium rich plants. Were athletes encouraged to ingest organic plant based sodium rich drinks, instead of the fake unhealthy sports drinks they have been duped by, hyponatraemia would not be an issue.

      • Rob says

        Andrew – Thank you for the truly authoritative and science-based information that you have posted here.

  31. says

    Great post. I’m very interested in reading what you have to say about other nutrients involved in BP regulation (magnesium? potassium?) because I have high BP with NO other issues – i.e. I am lean, very physically fit, with normal blood sugar, cholesterol, everything. It’s just the BP that is elevated. Do you think tall people have higher BP because it takes more to pump that blood to our (farther out) extremeties?? :)

    • Ben says

      Great question, I’m personally very interested in this because I’m in much the same situation. Lean, eat paleo, health metrics appear good except BP. And also tall!

      In particular, there seems a lot of talk of the ratio of sodium to potassium in the diet being a (or the) key factor in blood pressure disregulation.

      Do we have a sense at all of how much sodium is taken in by hunter gatherer societies?

    • Philomina says

      I am in the same situation as Mary and Ben. The only thing I am having is hypertension. I am not tall. I have even lost some weight and nothing is happening. All my numbers are great. No high cholesterol, AIC is good, I mean everything is good except the blood pressure. I just started increasing my consumption of celery because I read that it provides nitric oxide.

      • Kay says

        I am the same. Do you have a low pulse rate – mine is always 50-55 which apparently makes high BP less of a problem. One theory is that a slower (healthier) heart rate allows chambres in heart to overfill causing high upper reading, but is otherwise benigbn.

  32. Mollie Player says

    It’s so amazing how long it takes for conventional advice to go out of favor. People are STILL talking about lowering fat … HUH???!!

  33. Richard Jones says

    I DEFINATELY crave salt on some foods, since cleaning up my food palate. The body demands, the body receives. :-)

    I have some Qs about gall bladder, for you Chris, where can I send them?


  34. says

    Great article. My mother suffers from terrible hypertension and several years ago, was prescribed a low-sodium diet. My mom was never one to eat much in the way of processed foods, the healthier the food, the better, so she took to this new diet with gusto. I watched as her health declined rapidly – her heart problems worsened, there were frequent mini-strokes, and memory was suffering. We didn’t know why this was happening. Years later, one doctor finally has the common sense to note that she was suffering electrolyte imbalance and mom was subsequently put on a higher sodium diet. Mom now adds fleur de sel religiously to her meals and her health has improved. She still suffers from hypertension, but she is much more stable and her memory has improved (despite the strokes).

    I now warn friends about recommending a low sodium diet to others. It’s better for them to recommend eliminating processed foods.

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