Shaking up the Salt Myth: The Dangers of Salt Restriction | Chris Kresser

Shaking up the Salt Myth: The Dangers of Salt Restriction

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“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.

221 Comments

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  1. I am 72 almost 73 and am suffering quite badly from Atrial Fibrillation. I am fighting off the doctor’s insistence on an ACE inhibitor and Beta Blacker, but I have reluctantly started on an anti-coagulant (Apixaban/Eliquis). I have noticed that my AF seems worse if I reduce my carbo-hydrate consumption, which is very annoying as I am trying to lose weight. My brief experiments with non-starchy veg with a little meat (stir fry or ratatouille) produced encouraging results. But now I have accidentally ‘overdosed’ on salt by using what I thought was a pepper mill into a baked bean filling I was brewing up for use on jacket potatoes. The pepper mill turned out to be a salt mill, and since baked beans are already loaded with salt, I couldn’t eat much of the resulting mess. However, a few hours later I felt much stronger and my heart rate was more normal. I have since tried using a salt shaker when eating out, also with good results. I wish I could somehow narrow down the effect so I could gauge just how much to use.

  2. I was impressed with Chris’ article. Free thinkers get my attention. Makes sense about low salt/high salt controversy. I am increasing my salt intake by using the salt shaker. However, I do not eat processed salt. I eat Himalayan salt, etc. I eat 75% whole, very healthy foods. No processed, no fast food…

  3. Please update your links. Several of them do not go to the actual studies anymore. Number 4 is particularly bad.

  4. My brother has type 2 d. In the past year he has had problems with not being able to urinate and just having constant bm’s and ends up in er having to have a catheter in order to relieve himself. Doctors don’t know what problem is but he figured it was salt intake cause it happens when he has eaten a hot dog of Chinese food. He really has to watch it cause it doesn’t take much. blood pressure is good and he is pretty good at watching what he eats cause of the type 2 d. Is there anything that can be done to not have this problem. When this happens it is usually very late at night early morning.

    • How exactly do you conclude salt from chinese food/hot dogs? Those have plenty of other ingredients that could be culprits instead. Why doesn’t he try just eating his normal diet with extra salt to confirm it’s even salt?

      • I guess because doctors can’t figure it out so he changed diet to even lower contents of salt and the problem he had hasn’t happened again That’s why he figured it was salt. Maybe you can give a suggestion as to what it could be.

    • I am a type 2 diabetic. I was getting weak kidney function, but over the last 4 weeks have been increasing my salt intake and my kidney function is improving. It is still early days but I am beginning to see a glimmer of other benefits too. My blood pressure is fine, my sight has improved a little, I have lost the saggy skin under my chin and elsewhere, my skin is looking great, my digestion has improved a lot, and I am sleeping more soundly.

      I eat a good whole food high plant diet with some eggs and chicken but no wheat/gluten and keep my refined sugar intake to a minimum. Despite eating a fair amount of fruit and some starchy veg – usually viewed as anathema in the diabetic community, my insulin resistance has improved somewhat and I actually need a quarter less insulin than I did when eating HFLC/Paleo. I am hoping that will further improve on the salt as my body dumps the toxins it is clogged with (from years of eating lower but processed salt). Certainly my body is beginning to detox and digest and absorb nutrition much better now since increasing the salt.

      When I say salt, I mean REAL salt. Good, natural, complete, unprocessed, unrefined Celtic Sea Salt, not nasty processed table salt that has been stripped of all its protective and supportive electrolytic minerals and trace elements.

      It annoys me that incomplete refined salt is even called salt. True salt is rich in different electrolytes, stripped refined salt isn’t.

  5. All of you arguing over how much better the “natural” sodium and chloride are in plants are killing me. The most basic of chemistry classes quickly puts that fantasy to rest. Sodium is sodium. Now, that isn’t to say that *equal masses* of sodium are equivalent. Table salt, or very pure NaCl readily dissociates into its ions under the right conditions, however the sodium in living things potentially occurs bound in many compounds of differing affinities. However, I like to think of salt with the same (and pardon the pun) grain of salt that we should have considered dietary cholesterol with all these years. The simplest and most obvious truth is that, as in all things, over-indulgence is likely bad, absolute abstinence is likely worse, and moderation is golden. So, reviewing the actual evidence of the role of low sodium diets on hypertension leads one to conclude that adherence to low-sodium diets potentially decreases systolic blood pressure in otherwise normotensive patients by less than 4mmHg (at absolute most), and grossly hypertensive patients (those with systolic blood pressures >170) by absolutely no more than 7mmHg. Keep in mind that Cochrane did a systematic review that found that low-sodium diets only resulted in an average 1mmHg reduction in systolic BP with a negligible effect on diastolic.

    Going back to the cholesterol point, we were told for decades to avoid dietary cholesterol because the arterial plaques are predominantly composed of cholesterol. Scientists, pundits, and concerned citizens blithely ignored all that pesky (and significant) data that showed that blood cholesterol was minimally correlated to dietary cholesterol. So for decades we heard “eggs are bad” “no, people who eat eggs are fine!”, “no, you’re wrong because eggs are loaded with cholesterol!”. Now, after decades of pushing a diet we *never* had any evidence to support, the national heart organizations have finally dropped restricting dietary cholesterol from their recommendations. Instead, they now recommend statins for reducing cholesterol in people with elevated blood levels because they’ve finally, FINALLY, have accepted that high blood cholesterol is overwhelmingly the result of individuals being genetically more likely to simply make much more of it than their bodies require. I work in cardiology, can you guess how many times I’ve heard other nurses and physicians tell our patients to avoid foods high in cholesterol?

    Lastly, these stupid fad diets are literally killing us. The original AHA diets shifted people away from healthy, naturally-occurring fats to highly-processed, carbohydrate-laden foods. Even with the incredible, and I mean absolutely *breathtaking* advances in how we medically treat patients with coronary artery disease, heart attacks, and congestive heart failure, there is no reason heart disease should be the number 1 killer in America.

    • Your right, salt is salt is salt…. No matter where you get it from, it’s the same thing.

      On cholesterol, again your right. Dietary cholesterol has little or nothing to do with your serum cholesterol. Maybe if you have familial hyperlipidemia it might have an impact, but otherwise no. Sames goes for statins, in that they are mostly useless unless you have familial hyperlipidemia.

      On AMA/AHA recommended diets, right again. The low fat high carb crap is what is currently killing most Americans. Not salt, not fat. It is almost impossible to buy any “processed” food that hasn’t had HFCS or some form of sugar (or sugar like starch) added to it.

      Well, I for one can attest that eliminating carbohydrates from your diet will make your blood pressure drop dramatically. As well as the excess fat, and other bad things (like the severe edema that I “use to have” in my legs).

      I had a resting BP of 160/90 to 165/96 a few years ago when I weighed nearly 300 pounds. The edema in my legs & feet were so bad I couldn’t stand for more than a few hours. I tried exercise (for over a year), standard caloric restriction, & limiting salt, nothing worked to lower my weight or had any significant impact on my BP.

      Upon advice from my doctor, I did an Atkins style diet (ketogenic) along with a 5:2 intermittent fasting regiment. I quickly dropped 30 pounds (in 30 days). And although I was actually increasing my intake of salts (NaCl, KCl & magnesium citrate), my BP also dropped dramatically.

      I didn’t know this at first, until I had my wife take my BP one day (after reading in a blog that ketogenic diets drop your BP). In under 2 months my BP had dropped to 130/78. Within 6~7 months it had gotten down to 120/70. That’s a 40+ point systolic drop, and a 25+ point drop on the diastolic with zero drugs (only diet, no exercise).

      I religiously avoid carbs now, but I’m known to just douse food with extra salt. I use Morton lite salt (50/50 NaCl/KCl) not for BP reasons, but because I need the extra potassium (as I can’t eat potatoes or bananas). I probably use even more salt than before this diet, as the excessive amount of water I drink everyday depletes my electrolytes (upwards of 1 gallon per day). My liver requires a lot of water to make ketones, and thirst is a sure sign that I’m in ketosis.

      I don’t think I’m an isolated case, as I’ve read many accounts of other people doing a ketogenic diet having their BP significantly lowered, even while increasing their salt intake.

      I think salt can easily exacerbate high BP, but I don’t think it is the actual cause. It is not unlike when MD’s for years and years told patients with bleeding ulcers that it had to do with stress (and only with stress). The real cause was of course a bacterium called H-pylori. Yes, stress or salt can exacerbate almost any medical condition, including high BP. But it is NOT the root cause (and never was).

  6. I have been reading now for the past half hour all these different comments and replies of all these individuals and think that this one guy Allen, who has been running more than 20 years hit the nail right on the head with his explanation. Therefore I’m of the belief that moderation is the key to this zero salt dilemma. Depending on your activity level, that should dictate the amount of any nutrient your body requires, provided it comes from the best of sources, and if you feel healthy in how you live and feed your body then that should be your goal. Read Allen’s article and you should get a pretty good idea.

  7. Salt is also a disinfectant – low salt will cause all kinds of infections, viral, fungal, bacterial of vital organs such as lungs, kidneys & skin

    • Complete and utter rubbish. Salt is irrelevant to the human metabolism.

      No doubt like many before you, the myth that salt is a requisite, is endlessly repeated by people unable to understand basic English grammar. SALTS or electrolytes are essential to a human metabolism. NaCl or salt is not essential

      • Animals I’ve sheep camels and other types like rocks to get their salt and get sick with out doing so, we are in the animal group is we are neither vegetable nor mineral.

        • Which is totally meaningless! The body needs no salt or NaCl or sodium chloride whatsoever, it is complete rubbish spouted by people who have no understanding of the fact that the body needs *SALTS* ie sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride etc etc. These are salts that the body requires, there is no requirement for salt ie NaCl whatsoever, it is a myth the toxic salt industry loves to promote and doctors health practitioners have swallowed the hook and repeat this rubbish ad infinitum.
          The word salt and the term *SALTS* are not interchangeable, even if you incorrectly use them so.

          • But two of the major salts that we need for proper functioning are in NaCl which makes it convenient.

            • Exactly Ally. Not only that, they are used by the body in the greatest quantity. So yes it is a great idea to SALTS your food with NaCl or sea salt…. whatever you want to call it, because it’s the same thing! Henry is either very confused or a bit insane.

  8. I can’t help but think that theae studies are promoted and skewed by the very companies that make processed food like Monsanto. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, just keep digesting those large amounts of sodium. The average person who eats out a lot and eats process prepaired foods are on average consuming about 7500 mg of sodium per day. That is the true silent killer. First your kidneys, then your arteries, then other vital organs including the brain by means of stroke.

    • JZ,

      No sooner had my 78 year old father adopted a very low sodium diet that he began experiencing distressing health issues. Edema ensued and quickly after cellulitis, hospitalizing him for six days. Then came the kidney damage. Interestingly he was in pretty fine health before the severe salt restriction, which he pursued on his own accord without his doctor’s advice.

      • The body does not need sodium chloride ie NaCl or salt. It is a complete myth that the body needs salt. It needs SALTS and they are not interchangeable terms.

        • So you keep saying, but if you stop to notice, the body needs both sodium and chloride for electrolytes. Table salt is just the two of those together.

          • So what? You aren’t concluding anything other than NaCl is not essential. So what’s your point other than the obvious, which makes no difference to the outcome that NaCl is not essential to the human metabolism.

            • I’m not saying that table salt is the be all and end all, or that it is a necessity. I’m simply saying that table salt is a valid way to get those two essential electrolytes. It’s not the only way, but neither is it a terrible thing to be avoided at all costs as you seem to be suggesting. You are adamant that sodium and chloride are essentials (and science agrees), yet you are saying that table salt should be avoided when, in fact, table salt is nothing more than those two essential electrolytes combined. My point is simply that some people will get some of their sodium and chloride from table salt, and as long as it’s not being used to excess, that’s ok. You may not desire to get your sodium and chloride from table salt, and that’s ok too. There’s more than one way to be healthy. Literally my only point. Not trying to prove that table salt is something it isn’t.

            • Our bodies are made of salt water telling people they don’t need salt is wrong and dangerous. When we talk about drinking salt water we aren’t talking about table salt , its Celtic salt or Himalayan salt.

  9. Does a non- salt diet contribute to the kidneys (not bladder) making so much more urine….due to the needs of the blood to balance out the salt in the body? (that is low) I am 77, urinate about 15 times in a 24 hour period. I run 3 miles 5/6 days per week, lift weights daily, train judo and taekwondo have never smoked nor drank alcohol. I am 5 8, weigh 138 lbs…and my blood pressure is always 105/115 over 60/68 with a resting heart rate of 42 to 47. Thank you for helping!!!!

    • “Does a non- salt diet contribute to the kidneys making so much more urine….due to the needs of the blood to balance out the salt in the body?”

      If a non salt diet is the case, why pose an answer that involves blood balancing out the (non existent) salt in the body?

      • You know what he means. You are being deliberately obtuse. You’re very hung up on sodium vs salt. You could just help by answering the question instead of letting your ego take the wheel.

        • Some people are happy to work with misinformation, try and read in between the lines and then get the diagnosis wrong. My preference is to know exactly what someone means and leave others to cock it up.

      • To answer your question: I assume you are referring to the possibility of a low sodium diet causing you to pee more and the answer is yes. Sodium helps retain water. So if you are on a low salt diet and are not eating enough veggies with natural sodium, you could become deficient and will pee more. Sodium is important to your diet. Salt is not. Hope that helps.

    • Here’s a quick check on whether you are retaining enough water. Squeeze the tip of one of your fingers. If it springs back quickly you are hydrated with sufficient water. If not you are dehydrated. Dehydration can be because of not drinking enough water or urinating too much due to either not ingesting or not retaining enough minerals. I suspect that you aren’t ingesting enough high quality sea salt. High quality sea salt is not white. It contains a lot of minerals beside sodium and chlorine. It acts as a salt lick for humans. I don’t salt my food heavily while cooking or preparing it, about 2-1/4 tsp. per day and a extra 1/2 tsp. with water before going to bed. Sometimes I need a little more. Check with a doctor of functional medicine if you need specific medical treatment advice in this area.

      • Doctor,
        The skin test doesn’t work for me.
        I spend 4 hours in a steam room, but drink 3 litres of water (without added salt or electrolytes) in that time frame, to the point where I feel hydrated and my skin is fine, but I never have to pee so I’m guessing all the water I drink is sweated out. So am I truly staying hydrated?
        Is it true that the water will be sweated straight out through my skin, and won’t be able to be retained in my intestines and colon during such excessive sweating? Will taking salt help to retain water in my digestive system?
        Because I do have digestive issues, bloating, water retention and just recently developed acne, itching and some nerve problems, which I’m pretty sure are all related to electrolyte imbalances, which I do have a history of due to being so athletic. And also my lifestlye is very active, aside from the sweating I do in steam rooms. I even work out before I do that. The acne and itching I think are detox symptoms (because it only gets better if I drink tons of water) that happen as a result of my body being forced to flush out toxins, but I don’t think it’s able to flush out enough toxins because I’m not retaining enough water into my colon. And from what I understand most toxins and waste are removed through feces. I might sweat a lot during that time, but none of it is leaving my body through urine or bowel movements. And by the time I get home, I’m usually hungry so I eat a large meal and don’t really feel like drinking much more water for the rest of the day, so I don’t have a bowel movement or pee for the rest of the day.

  10. Any dietary advice, including the safety of salt, can mean life or death to a heart patient, and this sweeping advice can be dangerous to the wrong person.

    To add another anecdote to the pile, my otherwise healthy and young husband is preparing for heart surgery in 4 weeks to treat sudden heart failure. While he is encouraged to continue to consume low amounts of sodium (which is present in almost every food), he is entirely restricted from salt. Even a pinch of salt is considered a danger to him. There will come a day when he is on the mend and he CAN have a small amount of salt in his diet, there will never be a day when he MUST consume salt. No one NEEDS salt. So sayeth a cardiologist and, separately, a leading heart surgeon in Los Angeles.

    • “No one NEEDS salt.”

      ding, ding. Sodium is needed – salt is not. Salt happens to have sodium in it, which is why people think they need salt. Sodium is naturally in whole, raw foods. If “salt” was needed that badly, most raw vegans (for example) would be dropping dead.

    • I’m sure she said this after asking his diet and because people eat so much processed or packaged food nowadays salt isnt needed. And because of this it is not needed to be added to your meals on the table or whilst cooking. But the body does need salt just not from the salt cellar

      • The body needs *SALTS* magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, etc etc
        The body does not need NaCl or salt or sodium chloride, it is a myth perpetrated by the toxic salt industry.

  11. I too followed the recommendations of a low-salt, low processed food diet. I lost 40 pounds, got a great tan and a lot of compliments, but my father said I looked sick. He was right. I went to the hospital with hyponatremia (too little sodium in the blood), had an IV drip, and the doctor told me I drank too much water. He was wrong. I have Addison’s disease and had many of the symptoms others have described: aching legs, fatigue, low blood pressure, weight loss, vomiting and extreme headache (especially after drinking alcohol), increased skin pigmentation, and in the extreme, coma.

    I’m writing this not to get into the debate on having more or less salt in the diet, but because I think some readers may, like me, have these symptoms for years without a diagnosis of Addison’s. I’ve found that many medical professionals are not very knowledgeable of this somewhat rare condition.

    http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyponatremia/basics/causes/con-20031445

    • Not surprisingly, the article doesn’t mention the word salt.

      Clearly the article mentions sodium.

      A hospital uses a drip because they buy and sell pharmaceuticals. Though the body may initially use the second rate chemical reaction from the IV drip, this is not the way to maintain a metabolically useful sodium level.

      Over millennia, the body would have almost entirely used plant based sodium.

      Modern living has shown that people do not understand what a wealth of sodium is lying in wait for them in simple vegetables. This sodium is rich, abundant and metabolically usefull over a long term, unlike the toxic industrial chemicalised salt in everyday use.

      IV sodium at best, is a temporary stop gap, with potentially dangerous side effects and yet another crisis in waiting.

      Having too little sodium in the blood can be alleviated on a daily basis by simply consuming raw beetroot and celery.

  12. Don’t natural foods such as meats, fruits, and vegetables contain enough salt already? It seems a bit suspect that we now need to add additional salt to our diets? What other animal needs to do this?

    • Paul, naturally meats, fruits and vegetables, do not contain any NaCl at all. What they do contain is Na, sodium and Cl, chloride.

      These are essential *SALTS* as is potassium, magnesium etc etc. The confusion lies in articles like the ones presented on this site, that omit to clearly define the difference between essential Na and essential Cl and non essential NaCl or salt.

      And no we don’t need more salt at all, what we need are essential *SALTS*.

      • Sodium is not stable unless it is bound to some other element. Pure Sodium Explodes VIOLENTLY when it comes into contact with water. So their is no such thing as unbound sodium in any plant or animal unless it has been placed in it’s ionic form. As you dry it out it will find a neighbor or a protien to bind itself too. Classic chemistry experiment up through the 1990’s was to put pure Sodium into water in chemistry class and what it explode. Exothermic reaction big time! If you bit down on a piece of pure sodium it would explode your teeth and jaw. Look at the difference between heme iron and iron oxide. Either will work in the body but the body has to work harder to convert one than the other into a usable form. What type of ignorant person thinks that sodium chloride presents some challenge to the body to separate and make use of the sodium and the chloride? I can make almost anything into a salt amphetamines are often made into the form of a salt! That does not magically make it good or bad but it sure makes it easier for the body to use it! I can make cyanide into the form of salt but you do not want that in your body! Some of you are talking about chemistry and physiology you clearly do not understand. Your body does not for instance use complete proteins either. Everything you eat get’s hit with acid or alkaline in the stomach then it get’s hit with bile and enzyme and other goodies. Each step breaking apart complex bonds to separate the whole food into it’s micro-nutrients. Different cell’s along the path absorbing different nutrients. The body than takes those individual building blocks not complete anything and builds what it needs to build. If a form is toxic than you have a problem but other than that if it can be broken down it does not matter. Some forms are so hard to break down that you body just does not have the time to break enough down with the resources it has to use what is being taken in but that is another problem. This is what a salt is and is why they say “Salts” in Anatomy and Physiology texts’s since it cover’s all metals and cations: any chemical compound formed from the reaction of an acid with a base, with all or part of the hydrogen of the acid replaced by a metal or other cation. You can turn any metal into a salt!

    • Kell, just because SOME doctors still believe we don’t really NEED (very much) salt, doesn’t make it true! In fact, my mothers doctor recently told her to INCREASE her salt, especially in hotter months, to avoid dehydration – one of the REAL killers of the elderly. She was stunned! She said she drank plenty of water every day, but as it was explained to her, that’s all fine and good, but if your body simply flushes that water out without being able to retain it, it can actually be WORSE because it flushes salts, minerals and other things our body needs. Since INCREASING her salt intake her cholesterol and triglyceride (the bad ones that is) have DROPPED and she is now off the medications for that. So, just because SOME/MANY doctors believe what they were taught from the Government study, doesn’t make it true! So your statement that “No one NEEDS salt.” is MORE dangerous that someone recommending higher levels of salt. Don’t believe me, then just eliminate ALL the salt from YOUR diet and see where it takes you. Oh, and read the NEW studies done by MANY organizations and nations instead of just that one old one that the Government keeps pushing from the testing on rats from the 70’s…

      • I don’t need to try it, I haven’t eaten any sodium chloride for years.

        The truth is that you need salts, not salt. Salt is not essential to life, but salts are. The two words are not interchangeable Doctors are useless at nutrition. Recommending salt, instead of advising that sodium is plentiful in fruits and vegetables, as is chloride, and these are just two of the salts the metabolism requires to function healthily. The amount of first class sodium in celery and beetroot is second to none. Chloride in abundance is also available in plant based food.

        • Unfortunately not everyone eats veggies which are a natural source of sodium. Some people just refuse to eat them. I love them. Sadly those who refuse to eat veggies but then go on a no salt diet may have some issues. Ideally solve that by eating veggies. If you won’t then salt is an option, just not a very good one.

          • Extropian, you are very misinformed. Dairy, animal meats contain sodium, or as Archibald says natural “salts”. Matter of fact, animal meats actually have quite a bit per serving. These numbers/nutrition facts you should look up and educate yourself on them. So I am at a loss for when you say “some people don’t eat vegetables”, I take it you are talking about Eskimos and Zero Carb / Low carb dieters, etc. Otherwise, the only thing that is left, really, are fruitarians – which I won’t go there, other than saying fruit has sodium levels as well. So you must be referring to yourself or dust mites.

      • Alan – I have eliminated salt from my diet and it is not a problem at all. What you can’t eliminate, what you do need, is SODIUM. Sodium is different than salt. Maybe your family member is in the position of needing salt specifically and I can’t attest to that, so you are right that I should not speak so definitively, particularly since I am not a medical professional. What I said was written flippantly as part of a personal anecdote, and was meant to represent my personal experience with my personal doctor.

        But my bigger point, and the point that I actually do care about, was that articles like this making big sweeping statements are harmful. So my comment on a smaller scale could also be harmful, and I will not try to spread the message that everyone’s medical advice should be the same on this issue just because of my personal experience. But this article by a person who is seen as a professional is irresponsible and incomplete.

        And to put it back to personal terms, if my husband didn’t have someone to help him/watch him, and he read this article during a time when he was looking for relief and on a lot of medications that made it difficult to think clearly, he could have had salt at a time when it could have actually killed him. Obviously that is a dramatic statement and I don’t think that people are specifically dying over this article, but I think this is very irresponsible for a supposed expert, and at an emotional time I couldn’t resist commenting so.

        • Kell, you are right. Sodium/natural salts in food is needed, not salt (sea salt, him. pink salt, celtic salt, table salt – whatever salt you want to call it – its not needed!!). People are very misinformed. But things ok, if people want to continue thinking that “salt” is needed, keeping eating processed foods and adding “salt” to your foods……it will lead to issues soon or later, most of which you are unaware of. More people need to die anyways….this world is overpopulated.

    • “What other animal needs to do this?” Umm, only EVERY living animal on earth. Large herds in the days of old used to migrate constantly from places of salt licks to watering holes.

      • No animal or human “needs” salt. It is electrolytes or SALTS that animals and humans need.

        The fact that animals ate addictive sodium chloride and went to a watering hole after proves nothing except that salt would make them thirsty.

        No animal would die without a salt lick, they may of course die if they didn’t consume the correct electrolytes or in other words SALTS.

        The terms salt (non essential) and SALTS (essential) are not interchangeable, despite some people’s misunderstanding of what the correct grammar actually means.

  13. Raw salt is typically 80 to 85 percent Sodium Chloride (NaCL)
    With the rest being trace elements.

    Processed salt, what we typically think of as table salt, is typically 95 to 97 percent sodium with the remaining being trace amount of iodine and the rest flow enhancers. Realize there is virtually no chloride in processed salt.

    Sodium does not equal Sodium Chloride.
    Processed salt is not salt, it is basically sodium.
    A too low salt (NaCL) intake is as high in health danagers as a too high salt (NaCL) intake, it is about balance

    • James I totally agree with your sentiments regarding the separation of terminology regarding sodium and chloride and salt. Concluding you state that:

      “A too low salt (NaCL) intake is as high in health dangers as a too high salt (NaCL) intake, it is about balance”.

      You can have a “too low” sodium intake and you can have a “too low” chloride intake, but not a too low NaCl intake as there is no essential metabolic requirement for the compound NaCl.

      All sodium requirements and all chloride requirements are more than adequately met from plant based foods or the animals that ate the plants. It is a myth that NaCl intake might cause health problems at low doses.

      What is missing, more likely and would cause health problems, is sodium and or chloride, not NaCl.

      • Henry
        To a point I agree with you, if your largest physical exacerbation is twelve ounce curls, you may be correct. However, since my normal work day consists of six to seven hours of sweating from head to toe, yes it is very physical, I do not believe you can simply eat enough to make up the loss. I do temper my additional intake on those days I know I will not be as physically active, Balance
        I do have a problem wrapping my mind around the concept you present the sodium and chlorine (a chloride forms when the chlorine atom gains or loses an electron) exists as independent molecules in plant or animals. Sodium is a soft metal and is extremely reactive (it will burn in water) and does not exists in nature by itself but as a compound with other elements. Chlorine is a gas, although a “ton” (maybe ton is a poor choice here) it also exist as a compound with other elements and not a lone element. I look forward to further discussions as I attempt to understand this concept.

        • James, thanks for courteous reply, I wasn’t emailed responses so apologies for delay in your interest to discuss. your point

          “I do have a problem wrapping my mind around the concept you present the sodium and chlorine exists as independent molecules in plant or animals”

          “Plants face a dilemma about sodium metabolism. Uptake of ubiquitous sodium ions is desirable as a way to build osmotic potential, absorb water and sustain turgor, but excess sodium ions may be toxic. Information from a number of plant species about the proteins involved in sodium-ion uptake helps to explain how plants manage to take in just the right amount.”
          I have taken this from genome biology and wonder if this is relevant to your point regarding sodium molecule uptake in plants?

      • Sir, you blasting comment lends nothing to the discussion except to confirm that when you open your mouth foolishness comes out. If you had taken the time to properly research and present that research, you would have proven that my facts on the make up of processed salt was incorrect and stretch my mind to a new idea, but alas you have failed, not miserably to achieve great things, just failed. Please look at the following article ( ), I did some slicing and dicing on the article but hopefully have kept the intent of it intact.

        Contents of Refined Iodized Salt
        Sodium ≈39%
        Chloride ≈60%
        Ferrocyanide, Up to 2%
        Aluminum Silicate,
        Ammonium Citrate,
        Dextrose
        Iodide .01%
         
        Major Contents of Unrefined Sea Salt (different raw salts may have different trace elements based on where there are mined.)
        Element Mg/1/4 tsp % Element Mg/1/4 tsp %
        Chloride 601.25 50.9 Zinc 0.03 .00275
        Sodium 460 33.00 Copper 0.02 .00195
        Sulfur 9.7 0.820 Erbium 0.02 .00195
        Magnesium 5.2 0.441 Tin 0.02 .00192
        Potassium 2.7 0.227 Manganese 0.02 .0018
        Calcium 1.5 0.128 Cerium 0.02 .00172
        Silicon 1.2 0.052 Fluoride 0.01 .00109
        Carbon 0.6 0.049 Rubidium 0.01 .00084
        Iron 0.14 0.012 Gallium 0.01 .00083
        Aluminum 0.11 0.0095 Boron 0.01 .00082
        Praseodymium 0.04 0.0029 Titanium 0.01 .00079
        Strontium 0.03 0.00275 Bromine 0.01 .00071

        Also from the same article

        Why is Salt Refined?
        You may be asking yourself the above question. Salt is refined for four main reasons:
        1. Refined salt, having all of its minerals removed (i.e., “purified”) is essentially a lifeless product. Being a lifeless product assures a long shelf life. In fact, refined salt can sit on the grocery shelf forever. A long shelf life is a valuable tool to maximize profits for food manufacturers.
        2. Manufacturers believe that an all-white salt product will look cleaner to the consumer and, therefore, increase sales. Refined salt is bleached in order to obtain the white color.
        3. If the salt is taken from a polluted area, the refining process will remove the toxins associated with the salt.
        4. Iodine is added to refined salt to prevent goiter (swelling of the thyroid). However, as pointed out in my book, Iodine, Why You Need It , Why You Can’t Live Without It, there is insufficient iodine in salt to prevent thyroid illnesses or to provide for the body’s iodine needs.

        Unrefined Salt
        As contrasted with refined salt, unrefined salt contains much more than sodium and chloride. Unrefined salt contains all of the elements necessary for life. Celtic Sea Salt (Light Grey) contains 33% sodium, 50.9% chloride, 1.8% minerals and trace elements and 14.3 % moisture. Table 2 shows the major contents of unrefined Celtic Sea Salt. Unrefined salt does not contain appreciable amounts of iodide. Unrefined salt has not been put through various machines to remove the minerals and other elements that are naturally part of the salt. In addition, unrefined salt has not been exposed to harsh chemicals. Finally, unrefined salt will have the minerals and elements associated with its origin.

        • Ummm….table salt is NaCl, and the tiny cube like structures that you see are due to the ions of sodium and chloride binding together in ionic bonds to form a crystal lattice. PERCENT of sodium and potassium by WEIGHT is misleading. There is one sodium ion for every chloride ion. However, the atomic mass of sodium and chloride differ significantly, hence the different percentage by mass. The value you seek is MILLIEQUIVALENTS (mEq) which describes the IONIC content of the salt, which is exactly 50-50 in any given crystal of salt (or, you know, extremely close to 50-50). If there was a big difference in the amount of sodium compared to chloride, you would find that the salt was electrically charged. If it were only sodium, you would find that it was a highly reactive metal. So, in fact, NaCl, or “table salt” is pretty much 50-50 sodium and chloride, although iodine is added in the store. Salt is NOT bleached. NaCl is crystalline white in its pure form. There are some minerals in the impure salts, but it does not matter with regards to your health. In fact, pure salt is better, I am not too keen on eating Silica and Strontium….or even more fluoride than what they already put in the water. So, refined NaCl with iodine is the best for your health. Just bringing some chemistry to the table….

          • Refined NaCl is not good for your health, on the contrary, it is associated with stomach cancer just for starters.

  14. I crave salt! Growing up, my older brother would call me a salt vampire. When I was pregnant my husband was sure my bp would skyrocket. Nope. I maintained a healthy 120/70 range. I found that salty foods made my nausia go away, so saltines were at my bedside. At work I had a cup of salty sunflower seeds handy. I’d even pop green olives one after the other until I’d have to push them past my puckered lips…mmmm…good times! And the minimal swelling in my ankles happened due to the increasing weight of the baby, not the salt. Anyway, everyone is different, you shouldn’t impose what physiologically works for you on someone else. My husband doesn’t like a lot of salt, so appatently he doesn’t need a lot. “Season to taste” seems to be spot on!

    • “I crave salt”

      That is because NaCl it is an addictive compound.

      “You shouldn’t impose what physiologically works for you on someone else”

      Physiologically it is sodium (Na) that “works” for the human metabolism, not salt.

      Physiologically it is chloride (Cl) that “works” for the human metabolism, not salt.

      “My husband doesn’t need a lot of salt”

      No one needs a lot of salt. However we all need the requisite amounts of sodium and we all need the requisite amounts of chloride for our personal metabolism.

      • “No one needs a lot of salt. However we all need the requisite amounts of sodium and we all need the requisite amounts of chloride for our personal metabolism.”

        All of the sodium (aka natural salts) your body needs comes from whole foods, not processed foods.

        Its mind blowing to me the things that people want to argue about, other than common logic and sense.

    • Salt absolves you. It banishes room for other energies. This is why people are on meds without an emergency. They change a little due to becoming accustomed to something and only jump to suppress it. It takes some thinking to figure out what to do yourself instead of suppress the oncoming change.

  15. Ingesting salt as NaCl, wich is a mineral salt, has very diferente effects than ingestin sodium as organic salt like sodium citrate or acetate sodium wich is abundant in a lot of plants, like the fruit of Lemon, Orange, the leafs of most plants we eat. Nevertheless NaCl (like the one it exists in the ocean water at aprox. 3% concentration) has chloride wich is a very important micronutrient in plants (quantities similar to some macronutrients, more important to plants than sodium. Chloride is also very importante to mamals, humans included, because it is the ion wich is used to manufacture the chloridric acid wich permits to make digestion of food (it is a mineral acid by chemical convention ). The sodium wich is mainly in the stomach walls then reacts with the acid and protects the stomach walls from being corroded by this very strong mineral acid wich corrodes food and gives bad smell to vomit. The reaction wich happens in our body, in the stomach, between this very strong acid and this very strong base (they are very strong by chemical convention), originates NaCl wich is equal to the most part of ocean salt (99% is NaCl), when we piss to the earth, like a dog or a wild animal does, the ground gets NaCl, and the plants if they exist, if we put urine not diluted in plants we can kill plants because of this NaCl wich originated in our stomach, or in dogs stomach, or in other mamals stomach. Organic sodium is better to health and has not the danger if hardening the arteries and veins. But nevertheless we should consume Chloride, wheter in plants or in NaCl, so the animals, like cattle or humans, or any mamal pets, be normal healthy animals. Humans are animals. Cattle is full of NaCl in fodder, wich is not good, it should have a lot less NaCl, and a lot more sodium and chloride in fertilizer to plants, so they can manufacture organic molecules and then the cattle like pigs or chichens ingest it and humans also.

    • “But nevertheless we should consume Chloride, whether in plants or in NaCl, so the animals, like cattle or humans, or any mamal pets, be normal healthy animals.”

      ______

      No, we should definitely not consume chloride from NaCl, when it is in abundance in plant based food, or animals that ate the plants. The best source of chloride is not NaCl.

      • thank you Henry. I am reading through these comments and some people are very misinformed. Perhaps they are being paid by big pharma to spew this nonsense.

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