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Shaking up the Salt Myth: The Human Need for Salt


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In the first part of my series on salt, I discussed the historical significance of salt and its role in the evolution of humanity. Salt has been a highly prized substance for thousands of years across all cultures and continents. Yet over the past few decades, excess salt and sodium intake has been blamed for a variety of serious health conditions plaguing our country, such as heart disease, hypertension, and stroke.

Much debate has centered around determining the level of dietary salt required to maintain optimal health, but over the years the suggested upper limit has continued to shrink. According to the CDC, the average intake of sodium for American adults is about 3,300 mg of sodium a day, which is well above the standard recommendations. (1) The USDA urges Americans to consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, and the American Heart Association (AHA) has an even more strict guideline of consuming less than 1,500 mg a day for general health and disease prevention. (23)

It has been theorized that dietary salt consumption was extremely low in the Paleolithic diet – approximately 768 mg of sodium daily – and that inland hunter-gatherers added little or no salt to their food on a regular basis. (4) We know these hunter-gatherer diets did not lead to the chronic, Western diseases we see today. The question is, does low salt intake by our distant ancestors mean that adding salt to our food is necessarily harmful? Should we adhere to the AHA sodium guidelines of 1,500 mg or less per day? Or is there a healthy range of salt consumption that can not only support but optimize our health?

Physiological roles of salt in the human body

Despite its recent bad press, there is no doubt that an adequate intake of salt in the human diet is required to maintain good health.

The Institute of Medicine recommends that healthy adults consume 1500 mg of sodium, or 3.8 grams of salt, to replace the amount lost daily on average through sweat and urination. (5) (Ironically, this recommendation is almost double the amount theoretically consumed by Paleolithic man.) The minimum physiological requirement of sodium simply to sustain life has been estimated to be 500 mg of sodium per day. (6)

Sodium is a vital nutrient. It’s a major component of extracellular fluid, and is essential for maintaining the volume of the plasma to allow adequate tissue perfusion and normal cellular metabolism. (7) Because sodium is used as an extracellular cation, it is typically found in the blood and lymph fluid. The maintenance of extracellular fluid volume is an important physiologic function of the sodium in the body, particularly in regards to cardiovascular health.

Besides helping to maintain fluid balance and cardiovascular function, sodium and chloride ions also play an important role in the nervous system. Changes in the concentrations of these ions allow neurons to send signals to other neurons and cells, allowing for nerve transmission as well as mechanical movement. Chloride ions provided by salt are secreted in the gastric juice as hydrochloric acid (HCL).  And HCL is vital to the digestion of food and the destruction of food-borne pathogens in the stomach. (8)

If a true sodium deficiency occurs, mammals experience symptoms of hyponatremia such as brain swelling, coma, congestive heart failure, cardiovascular collapse following acute blood loss, and impaired sympathetic cardiovascular adjustments to stress. (9) Animals in a truly sodium-deficient state will seek out salty food and often consume far more sodium than needed to restore homeostasis. (10) These behavioral changes in response to inadequate salt intake further demonstrate the biological importance of dietary salt.

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Regulation of plasma sodium levels by the kidney

The kidney, when healthy, regulates sodium and water excretion using hemodynamic, neural, and hormonal inputs.  This allows it to respond appropriately to a wide range of dietary sodium intake. Aldosterone, a steroid hormone secreted by the adrenal glands, helps regulate the balance of water and electrolytes in the body.

An abrupt increase in dietary salt can cause a redistribution of fluid from the intra- to the extracellular space.  But after a few days, the kidney is able to compensate with extra sodium excretion to match the dietary intake. Therefore, healthy people are generally able to adapt to a wide range of salt intakes without a significant change in blood pressure. (11)

If sodium intake drops too low, our metabolism shifts into a sodium-sparing mode.  This stimulates the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone hormonal system, which in turn maintains osmotic balance and adequate blood pressure. (12) A significant increase in renin and aldosterone is a symptom of sodium insufficiency, and has been shown to occur as salt intake drops below 1.5 teaspoons per day. (13) Interestingly enough, the recommendation for 2,300 mg of sodium equates to approximately one teaspoon of salt. An intake this low is associated with an even more rapid rise in renin.

Another important dietary determinant of this renin-angiotensin-aldosterone hormonal system is potassium intake. Our biological machinery (which developed in the Paleolithic era) evolved in conjunction with a diet not only very low in sodium, but also very high in potassium-rich plant foods. (14) Unlike our Paleolithic ancestors, Americans are consuming very low amounts of potassium: approximately 3,200 mg per day in men and 2,400 mg per day in women. (15) The adequate intake as defined by the IOM is 4,700 mg per day, and preagricultural humans are estimated to have consumed fully 10,500 mg of potassium each day.(16)

This modern reversal of electrolyte consumption is another important consideration in determining the population-wide increase in rates of hypertension. Dietary potassium has been demonstrated to dose-dependently counter the pathophysiological effects associated with modern dietary excess of salt, including salt-sensitivity, a likely precursor of hypertension.

Therefore, dietary potassium intake, in addition to the sodium to potassium ratio, may play a crucial role in the development of those diseases typically associated with a simple excess of sodium in the modern diet.

Evidence about human salt consumption

The human body has adapted complex physiological mechanisms in order to prevent blood pressure fluctuations in response to these variations in sodium intake. Not surprisingly, epidemiological data has revealed an average sodium intake range of 2400 mg to 5175 mg of sodium per day in developed cultures. (17) Certain isolated groups in areas such as Brazil, Papua New Guinea, and rural African communities have been found to live on sodium intakes of as little as 1150 mg per day. However, despite finding generally low blood pressure in these remote communities, the little evidence that exists on these low salt societies suggests shorter life expectancy and higher mortality rates.

An example from the Intersalt Study, which examined the impact of population-wide salt consumption on blood pressure, is the Yanomami Indians of the Brazillian rainforest, who are known for having far lower average blood pressure than that of Western populations. (1819) Their lifelong low blood pressure has been attributed to their extremely low consumption of salt, and this has been used as evidence to further support the effort to restrict salt from the American diet.

A major problem that arises from using the Yanomami as an example of the salt-hypertension hypothesis is the wide variety of confounding variables that may also affect their blood pressure. The Intersalt Study researchers admit that:

“In addition to low Na+ intake and high K+ intake, other factors that may contribute to the absence of hypertension and lack of blood pressure increase with age among the Yanomami Indians are as follows: their low body mass index and the almost nonexistence of obesity, no alcohol ingestion, low ingestion of saturated fat, high ingestion of fibers, relatively high physical activity, and the several cultural consequences of living in an isolated community without the psychosocial stress of civilization and without a monetary system or dependence on a job.” (20)

This data suggest there are many reasons the Yanomami have such low blood pressure.  These include high potassium intake, high physical activity, low stress levels, and complete lack of alcohol consumption. Furthermore, although the Yanomami have low blood pressure and nearly nonexistent rates of cardiovascular disease, their overall health outcomes are less than stellar. (21) They are described in ethnographic literature as having small stature, high mortality and a low life expectancy ranging between 29 and 46 years. (22)

Despite these high mortality rates and confounding lifestyle factors, the Yanomami people are still used as a prime example in support of the salt-hypertension hypothesis.

The results of the Intersalt Study did not indicate any clear pattern between the level of salt intake and blood pressure in those countries studied. (23) And when average life expectancy is plotted against the countries’ average salt intake, the trend shows that higher salt consumption is actually correlated with longer life expectancy. While this correlation does not imply causation, it is interesting to note the compatibility of a high salt diet with a long life expectancy.

As we can see, there is an enormous range in the daily dietary sodium intake of various cultures around the world, ranging from quite low (1150 mg) to fairly high (5175 mg). Additionally, we know that the healthy kidney is capable of adjusting to fluctuating levels of sodium in the diet in order to maintain fluid homeostasis. Finally, we know that hunter-gatherer and Paleolithic diets were very low in sodium, and that salt was rarely, if ever, added to food. Therefore, it would seem that limiting salt in the diet to those levels recommended by the AHA and USDA would not have any significant consequences, and would be an ideal dietary choice when mimicking the diet of our ancestors. However, evidence is mounting to the contrary: a low-salt diet may actually lead to serious health consequences and higher overall mortality, particularly in conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

In my next article in this series, I will discuss the contradictory evidence regarding the dietary guidelines for salt reduction, as well as the potential risks of consuming a diet too low in salt.

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Join the conversation

  1. I make a effort to add celtic sea salt to my daily diet, at least a tsp or MORE you wouldn’t believe how much it helps your adrenals. I was on high blood pressure meds when I started doing this and now I am off! I also started taking Iodoral (iodine). I am 51 female, couldn’t lose weight and a host of other issues… now my life has changed.
    I wouldn’t go about all this without reading up on it and the help of a good doctor but if your interested in the reading I did you can get two books from Dr. Brownstein

  2. Thank you for this very useful article. It helped me immensely on a topic that was of concern to me lately. Keep writing 🙂

  3. Most people are not aware of sodium’s twin, potassium.
    I just found out that the ratio of sodium to potassium should be about 2:4 In other words, you need twice as much potassium as you do sodium. . So for example, if you ingest two grams of sodium per day, you should balance that amount with four grams of potassium. We have been lied to about potassium. The FDA won’t allow potassium dosages in health food stores to exceed 99 milligrams per capsule or tablet. Two days ago I received five pounds of potassium chloride that I purchased on eBay for $10.00. I’m taking four grams of it every day, along with two grams of Himalayan Sea Salt, and I am feeling just fine. A lot of little aches and pains are quickly disappearing, and it is because
    of the added potassium. I have been using the sea salt for months and nothing changed until two days when I began to use the potassium. That’s how I know it’s the potassium and not the sea salt that helped me get better. If you really want the truth about potassium, go here:

    • I think you are confusing sea salt and Himalayan rock salt.
      There were seas many millions of years ago in that area, but now it is a mountain range.

      Also before you go ingesting vast and unnecessary amounts of sodium chloride (Himalayan salt is virtually all NaCl) you might want to consider that rock based minerals are not as readily absorbable by the body, like plant based minerals are. Sodium from plants is the metabolic requirement for proper metabolism, not from NaCl.

      Humans are designed to ingest electrolytes (SALTS) from plants, not from rocks.

      A high salt diet can cause all kinds of horrible diseases, especially kidney stones later in life.

      • Plant based electrolytes seem like a good idea; however I am a wildlife manager and have learned that herbivores, (goats, moose, deer, sheep, buffalo etc.) go to extreme lengths to find natural mineral licks. Their plant diet leads to deficiencies in these essential electrolytes. In some cases they are absent from perfectly good habitat just because these mineral licks are not within an accessible distance. Their digestive tracts are much better equipped than ours to eat plants and yet mineral licks are essential for them to supplement this diet with rock/earth based minerals.

        • Plant based electrolytes “seem like a good idea”
          What on earth are you talking about?

          Plant based electrolytes are what animals and humans have required for millennia. Electrolytes are not an “idea”.

          NaCl is not essential for any animal to live. The salt lick myth has been dealt with ad infinitum in
          these articles.

          Animals like humans can become addicted. NaCl is an addictive substance used by farmers to keep their herds close by.

          Where were the humans to provide so called “essential” salt licks for animals in antiquity.
          They weren’t there of course and neither were the so called “essential” salt licks.

          • I was strictly talking about wild mammal populations. Herbivores require natural mineral and salt licks to be present on the landscape. Did you know that a over generations a herd of elephants have dug a cave system that stretches 200m below ground? (http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/wild-kingdom/about-animals/cave-elephants-field/) They did this to extract salt. You mentioned that rock salt is NaCl since it originated from the ocean. Salt is addictive but if it was detrimental to survival wouldn’t evolution have evolved mammals to avoid it. Animals that didn’t wast energy and resources chasing detrimental salt would have produced more offspring that also didn’t search for salt. Over thousands of years the animals today would not have this salt addiction. All large wild mammals that eat a plant diet visit salt sources on the landscape, same as the elephants I mentioned. I don’t know as much about European animals but I do know that the North American ones use lots of salt licks and so do the African ones.

            • You say that:
              “Salt is addictive but if it was detrimental to survival wouldn’t evolution have evolved mammals to avoid it”?

              No evolution doesn’t control addiction!

              I read the web site you mentioned regarding salt caves that the elephants visit, the writer pointed out that:

              “the elephants journey to the cave to cure their salt cravings.”

              Evolution hasn’t altered their addiction, despite this cave where they were recently slaughtered en masse.

              Despite your own offered web site confirming salt craving elephants’ continual visits, you then try and claim in your last post:

              “Over thousands of years the animals today would not have this salt addiction”

              Clearly according to the web site you have provided this is not the case.

              • The golden rule of evolution states that animals that are less fit to produce offspring contribute less genes to future generations and over long periods of time detrimental
                traits are lost in the population. If a gene that curbed salt cravings in mammals
                was created wouldn’t
                evolution have ensured that it became
                “fixed” withing the
                population? Instead animals have thier genes in tact. As for the elephants the time frame is much to short for elevolution to work apon that herd and ensure future offspring avoid the dangers. In this case the elephants salt addiction did lead to their deaths but the laws of evolution have not been violated. Did you know that NaCl is found within the space between your cells and is essential for chemical signaling between cells? It cannot be replaced with any other salt form.

                • It is a shame that you have chosen to ignore any clarifications of your contradictory claims.

                  As far as NaCl goes you haven’t a clue what you are talking about.
                  NaCl is neither responsible or essential for chemical signalling between cells as that is accomplished by Na.

                • I can’t hope to explain my reasoning to someone who doesn’t even believe that “evolution shapes our addictions”. Addictions are controlled by our genes (aka our genetic code). Gene expression is shaped by evolution. Genes that are detrimental to survival are less likely to be expressed in future generations than ones that benefit survival. This is a scientific paradigm that has been around a long time. As a scientific minding individual I embrace competing ideas because it is only through inquiry and sound reasoning that we can ever hope to prove ourselves and ideas wrong. I appreciate your viewpoint and fully believe you have the potential to be correct and possibly overturn current paradigms but you will fail to convince me if all you have to help me understand better, is back handed nasty comments.

                • My comments are not back handed, they are directly addressed to yourself. As for nasty, I admit to being blunt and direct, nastiness is inferred, not implied.

                  I know what shapes our addiction with reference to this particular article. It is SALT NaCl.

                  A substance that people still erroneously believe is essential to humans.

                  This belief persists even among healthcare professionals that the human body requires some daily salt intake for health. This belief is false and dangerous.

                  Although the human body requires sodium as a micronutrient, which is available naturally in sufficient amounts in unsalted food, it has no need for any sodium chloride whatsoever.

                  Addictions are not simply controlled by our genes they are controlled by habitat, industry, drug dealers, psychological problems and a host of other consequences.

                  You say that “Genes that are detrimental to survival are *less likely* to be expressed in future generations than ones that benefit survival.” Tell that to cancer patients.
                  “Less likely” is at best conjecture or wishful thinking.

                • Megan, you have made a valiant effort at engaging Samantha. Great effort. I just wanted to let you know you’re not alone in how you look at it, I agree with you.

                • I was wrong about NaCl being present and used within our blood and intracellular spaces. Ask anyone who has taken 1st year Biology and they will tell you it it Na+ and Cl- that is responsible for osmotic balance. However anyone that has taken 1st year chemistry will tell you when NaCl is dissolved in water it separates into Na+, Cl-, ions due to the polar (oppositely charged) nature of water molecules. It doesn’t recombine to form NaCl until you take the water away. Maybe you can get enough of these ions by juicing vegetables, but that doesn’t seem like the most natural way our ancestors could have replaced them when deficient.

              • Samantha you talk too much, people arent even to the stage of understanding daily intakes let alone the copious amount of variables that comes from individual dna structure and genetics. Lets not pretend any of us are experts now shall we. Your more a dictator than a help and your really dont know what works for anyone else.

                • “tom people arent even to the stage of understanding daily intakes let alone the copious amount of variables that comes from individual dna structure and genetics. Lets not pretend any of us are experts now shall we.”

                  You mean as you are now doing amazing hypocrisy.

                • Tom your contribution to the topic seems limited or of little relevance, whereas at least Samantha has made a contribution, albeit, too much for you to handle.
                  Had you actually addressed the topic as well, that might have been of some value as opposed to your dictatorial edict.
                  What most people don’t choose to realise, after years of brainwashing, despite your attempts to claim that someone doesn’t know what is good for all, is that industrialised, mineral depleted, bleached, neurologically damaging, stomach cancer causing processed salt, including aluminium and ferro cyanide, isn’t good for anyone at all; but I imagine your trite castigation doesn’t allow for the opinion of the whole of mainstream allopathic medicine and informed alternative medicine.
                  The argument that ‘salt is essential’ is untrue for everyone.
                  The argument that salts are essential for everyone is true.
                  Claiming someone else doesn’t know what works for others with your flimsy dna structure / genetics point is irrelevant when it comes to universal consumption of known toxins, ie industrialised NaCl.
                  I hope the correct grammar of the word salts versus salt is not lost on you, as it too applies to everyone, especially when you understand English language.
                  As it happens anyone with a modicum of intelligence can recognize universal industrial, slow but sure, metabolic poisons, even if you are unable to do so.

        • Plant foods aren’t really “salty”. Plant foods would have contained traces of organic salts of sodium, among other organic mineral salts. The same salts humans require today.

          • Pretty sure by “salty” he meant “salt-like” in taste.

            Karen, celery’s a very common source of salty taste, as are carrots. They contain relatively low amounts of the element chlorine, and relatively high amounts of potassium and sodium.

            Kelp and other sea vegetables also have a “salty” flavor, and along with carrot, parsley, and celery are great for helping to lower the amount of table salt (and rock/sea salt) you have to add to make a dish tasty for other people.

        • Many plants of the family Amaranthaceae have elevated levels of NA and K, along with high levels of other minerals. Chard is especially good in this regard. Related veggies are Spinach and Beets. These are known as “chenopods” from the plant family they were formerly associated with (now subsumed into the Amaranth family). These veggies are even “gritty” to the touch before washing.

    • Instead of trying to get your electrolytes from industrial chemicals like NaCl and KCl, Aim to get this from your diet. Go to a food market twice a week and buy the freshest looking fruits and veggies you can find. Also if available go to an Asian (other specialty market) as they have varieties of veggies you would otherwise not have access and variety prevents deficiencies in any particular nutrient. Eat large amounts of these veggies hand washed to remove pesticides. Removing pesticides from a diet completely can be nearly impossible without buying organic but you can reduce the amounts by an average of 95% buy thoroughly washing with a soft cloth like deer skin. Then soak in clean ice water for at least 10 minutes to prime for cooking, then mildly cook; meaning cooked only to the point to remove the “raw” (mild toxins and anti nutrients will denatured). This will turn them a brighter color. If the color gets darker you have overcooked or boiled (If boiled make sure to drink the broth as this contains all the vitamins released in the boiling water. Veggies should account for most of your diet with added whole unprocessed fruits, nuts, grains, seeds. Human’s do not actually need as much protein as we are told. (Aim for 10 hours of sleep per night, helps the body create proteins) A piece of meat the size of your fist is much too much per meal if you eat the above foods also. You should only eat an amount of meat the size of 1/4 your fist. Cook the meat separately cut up finely and add it to the veggies for flavor and to add essential amino acids again only mildly cooked (enough to kill any bacteria/parasites but not to burn). If you begin to feel carbohydrate deficient (low blood sugar) do to high insulin levels on the above diet eat more potato, or small amounts of cooked jasmine rice (fruit will usually not help the insulin relate low blood sugar because fructose (the main sugar in fruit, has little effect on blood sugar when eaten as whole fruit). Living like this over time will reduce aging and increase human growth hormone, sex hormones, increase muscle mass, stop hair loss, eliminate dry skin, increase vision, hearing, smell and taste, IQ will increase, waist will shrink, and bones will be more flexible and yet not more dense they will be less likely to be brittle and break from from force ( like to difference between a wet branch and a dry branch.) any live teeth will replenish enamel, (root canals kills the tooth, sorry dentists are crude in their science ), and you will have more energy to exercise mind, body and soul.

      • I have similar recommendations

        – maximize fruit and vegetables (fungi and seaweed included); half of which should be consumed raw
        – minimize animal: processed meat, less than once a month; milk, eggs or meat, less than once a week; low-mercury* fish or shellfish, less than once a day; small portions.

        – white powdery extracts: salt and sugar/starch/flours
        – processed grains like “coarse milled/cracked” wheat, “rolled/steel cut” oat, “pearled” barley, “polished” rice and semolina
        – liquid extracts: oils, juices and vinegar.

        Have dried beans (peas, lentils and pulses; underrated, eat more) and whole grains (cereals and pseudocereals; overrated, eat less) much more than animal products / much less than fruit and vegetables, and oleaginous seeds (sunflower, pumpkin and nuts) for “dessert”.

        *Seafood mercury content table, if you scroll a bit (aim between 0 to 0.050, and avoid everything above 0.150 mean ppm): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_in_fish#Most_contaminated_fish_species

        • I have two organic eggs every day. They are a fantastic source of excellent quality food for the body. When they include Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Phosphorous, Iodine, Choline, Biotin, Selenium, Foliate, Pantothenic Acid Vitamin, A , Vitamin D, B6, B12 and Protein, it might not be a good idea to be advising people to restrict such fine food to once a week, as unless allergic there is no reason to at all. The myth regarding eggs and “bad” cholesterol has been debunked long ago..

          • Eggs are not a fine food, they have a low nutrients / calorie ratio. Leafy greens have a comparatively very high nutrient ratio, most vegetables are high, fruit are medium and nuts are low on this scale… but at least they all contain fiber, which is by far the most significant contributor to a strong and durable health.

            The Egg industry is pernicious at manipulating the scientific community, research and make doctors sound like eggs are not actually *that* bad, when statistically they still are.

            According to Nutritionfacts.org, there is no advantage to ingesting more cholesterol than your body needs, only risks and disease.

            The latest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVqiv_7qJaI

            More of the same:
            – Cardiovascular disease: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZPulhmNEDs
            – Diabetes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y96iiU31ySs
            – Cancer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtlwhsBSWtI

            • Total nonsense! Organic eggs are an excellent food. I see you have ignored the multiple qualities of eggs, Do you need reminding:

              Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Phosphorous, Iodine, Choline, Biotin, Selenium, Foliate, Pantothenic Acid Vitamin, A , Vitamin D, B6, B12 and Protein.
              The cholesterol in eggs are absolutely fine. If you want calories eat something else.

              • Eggs contain disproportionately little of those nutrients you named twice. Most can be had from 10 folds more (the protein), to 100 folds (the minerals) and 1000 folds more (the vitamins) in the plant kingdom.

                Vitamin D and B12 are better had from fish, shellfish and mollusk, mainly because of their long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

                Nutritionally, eggs are not worth the risk of dying prematurely from a heart disease, diabetes or even cancer (possibly), as caused by their chart-topping cholesterol (and choline) content.

                Calories are not satisfying, eat more plant fiber instead:
                – maximize (nutritionally rich, calorically sparse) fruit and vegetables
                – minimize (nutritionally poor, calorically dense) animal.

                • Wow, someone that still touts the dangers of ” cholesterol content”? The entire mainstream cholesterol theory is highly suspect, but that aside, not even mainstream medicine thinks there is much to dietary cholesterol. Even your probable deity Ancel Keys never did.
                  Can you show us some non population studies that prove the harmfulness of eggs? And not silly healthy user bias based “facts”?

                • The video you posted about “eliminating the #1 cause of death” comes to a pretty silly conclusion for a number of reasons. The speaker concludes that if you had no saturated fat in your diet, your body wouldn’t have the “mortar” to clog your arteries with. Skipping for a moment how untrue that actually is, think about it. If your body is trying to repair damage, why would the best course of action be to deny it the repair material? Wouldn’t the best course of action be to prevent the damage? Do you think our bodies are “stupid” and are “repairing” damage that doesn’t exist? A whole food, all fruit diet has plenty of leeway for causing inflammation and damage to your blood vessels. Don’t you think there would be some other problem with allowing the damage to go unrepaired?
                  It would be like refusing to hire fire fighters because they block the streets in your neighborhood during fires, rather than just tyring to prevent the fires from happening. And of course all manner of necessary hormones and cellular structure is made from cholesterol. I’m going to just assume bodies aren’t as stupid as you think they are.

                • Cholesterol is the prime enemy, followed closely by animal (satured) fats.

                  Saturated animal fat opens endothelial pores for meat bacteria to enter your bloodstream and fire up your immune system, causing inflammation and triggering the buildup of arterial plaque, but *only* when total cholesterol level is above 150 mg/dL total.

                  If you’ve been getting 70% of your protein from animal sources like the vast majority of Americans, then your arteries have started closing in. The rest of the world (which is becoming increasingly like us) gets 40%, and you need to get yours slightly lower than that to compensate for your blindfolded head start.

                  There is something stuck around the walls of your coronary arteries that never belonged there. This glitch is the the result of repeatedly consuming massive quantities of unnatural, battery-farmed animals. Our culture, environment and (consequently) food, especially our meat, has become so polluted, the latter should be taken as a wild, anecdotal treat only.

                  Minimizing cholesterol intake will halt atherosclerosis, and maximizing fruit and vegetables consumption will slowly but progressively reverse it. When the blood is right, dead cells-cholesterol-triglycerides (plaque) deposit gets dissolved in the stream and injected back into plant fiber to be carried outside the body.

                  In Western cultures cholesterol can’t be lowered and forgone enough. Like table salt, cholesterol is not an essential nutriment, it ranks up there with trans fat as to how undesirable it is, which is the reason why it gets labeled on products.

                  The problem with the lethally sad Standard American Diet is just as much its preponderance of animals as it is its complete lack of fruit and vegetables.

                  Minimize animal, maximize plant.

                  Saturated *vegetable* fat, mainly found in coconut though omnipresent in all oleaginous seeds in smaller quantities, is good because its fiber encasing buffers its absorption (and because you’re doing away with all of meat’s endotoxins and dead bacteria). Plant’s ubiquitous phytosterol content also lowers blood cholesterol.

                • Agreed, sodium chloride isn’t essential at all, despite the fact you have been an ardent supporter of it in the past, you have now changed your tune.

                  Cholesterol : It is virtually impossible to explain how vital cholesterol is to the human body. If you had no cholesterol in your body you would be dead. No cells, no bone structure, no muscles, no hormones, no sex, no reproductive system, no digestion, no brain function, no memory, no nerve endings, no movement, no human life nothing without cholesterol. It is utterly vital and we die instantly without it.

                • That doesn’t make it an essential nutrient… that which (organic) sodium is, as it cannot be synthesized by the body, like all metals.

                  I have never been an “ardent supporter” of salt. Though I couldn’t entirely do without as a teenager, I hated and tasted it acutely.

                  Only when I started making my own grocery I became intelligent enough to eradicate even its traces from my diet, which I did so suddenly –by going from eating low-salt processed and canned food to relatively low sodium raw fruit and vegetables only– I had episodic cardiac arrhythmia, but then, nothing.

                  NaCl has not been ingested for 8 months. Blood pressure and pulse are at all time low, 108/66 and 60, no physical exercise involved other than carlessness (walking).

          • Serge,

            After reading your beliefs about cholesterol and eggs, I believe your complete ignorance in this area is a result of getting most of your information from YouTube videos, rather than reading studies, or at least reading someone credible who curates and analyzes studies. Unconscious ignorance is an ugly thing.

        • What a rubbish comment with no substance at all.
          James Anderson had a valid point, you have none.

  4. Hey guys & girls

    Ignore everything I previously stated. I just found out that more salt is actually good for you. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation did a huge study and found out that the countries that have the highest salt consumption per person live an average of 11 years longer than those who restrict their salt intake! We’ve been scammed folks. Salt is good for you — the more the better. Check out: http://www.saltinstitute.org/news-articles/does-salt-lead-to-longer-life/ Also, I think I was a little harsh on Chris in my first post. If it wasn’t for him, I would never had found out the truth about salt. He got me to searching for more data. Thank you Chris — now I can use 5 grams of salt a day and live about 11 years longer. By the way, the best salt to use is Himalayan Pink salt, which has many trace minerals intact, since ii is sun-dried and not heated in hot stoves as commercial salt normally is. Find out more about Himalayan Pink salt here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HVJI7KI?psc=1 and here:

    • Their graph tells us people with an average salt consumption live the longest (that major cluster in the middle of the x axis). If you go higher sodium it seems to lead to shorter lifespan. The traced “trends” overlaid on the original image of the graph are very inaccurate.

      Keep in mind that this is a correlation and not a cause to effect. Wealthy nations are not only the ones who consume the most salt, but also the ones with the best health systems, vaccines, technology and the least physical work. It’s to be expected that they live longer independently of their salting habits.

      Also The Salt Institute’s “dedicated to advancing the many benefits of salt” makes them prone to cherry-picking studies in favor of salt.

      Your theory and link about the “Potassium Defiency Scam” is quite an interesting one. What if the receptors in our mouth were in fact more about sensing potassium ions than sodium?

      Myself I’ve been thinking, having sugar receptors doesn’t mean eating spoonfuls of sucrose (or adding it into your every meals) is healthy right? Both these receptors evolved to become highly sensitive because these nutrient used to be scarce in our environment (salt even more so than sugar), not because we need to eat much of them and do so regularly.

  5. Do not believe anything about salt on this website. I just weighed a teaspoon of salt on my “tenth of a gram” sensitive electronic scale and it weighed 6.7 grams, not 2.3 grams as Chris Kresser stated. I quote from the article above: “Interestingly enough, the recommendation for 2,300 mg of sodium equates to approximately one teaspoon of salt.” If you listen to this dude, you could seriously hurt yourself, or kill yourself. Don’t believe me? Just weight a gram of ordinary table salt and see for yourself.

    • In my previous post (above) I said “Just weight a gram of ordinary table salt and see for yourself.” That is an error. I meant to say “Just weight a teaspoon of ordinary table salt and see for yourself.” Sorry ’bout that.

    • Salt is sodium chloride. Only some of it is sodium in other words, in fact only about half or less So the 6 grams of salt being 2.3 grams of SODIUM is quite okay, the rest is the chloride and whatever “free flow agents” have been added to table salt.

  6. While laying in the hospital one time for a minor illness, I wondered about the bag of saline solution going into my arm. I asked the nurse if I tasted the solution would it taste salty, she said yes, so I wondered how salty. I checked on the internet in how to make saline solution and the answer was 1 teaspoon of salt in a cup of water (8 oz). The bag going into my arm was a 1000 mili liters (ml) of fluid. I converted that to ounces, turned out to be 33.3 ounces, so 4 cups (4 tsp) so –the amount being injected into my body at that time, and upon the completion of the bag, was 4 teaspoons of salt into my blood stream, When that bag was empty they added one more until empty, so that was 8 teaspoons of salt added to my blood stream in one day!!! Now I don’t know about you but I’ve never shook 8 teaspoons of salt on my food in one year let alone one day. I realize that most of salt intake comes from sodium in processed food. Still 8 x 2500 mg of sodium = 20,000 mg of sodium injected into my body that day at the same time giving me a low salt diet of food that tasted like sh– and allowing me no possibility to shake any salt on my food.

    The body does not make sodium or water. You have to add those items through you mouth, so everyone should be taking salt tablets everyday along with a lot of water and potassium to make sure ones body has enough to. stay hydrated and healthy.

    • No one should be taking salt tablets as a way of life as they are unnatural; unless of course you are metabolically challenged or need an operation.

      Of course the body doesn’t make sodium, which is why nature provided this mineral in the earth. The body uses sodium that has been chelated (attached) to a protein molecule. These minerals are referred to as organic. And you can find chelated sodium in huge quantities in plants.

      Advocating ingesting inorganic sodium from a tablet, to provide the body, with an essential electrolyte it gets naturally and organically from nature, is astonishingly bad advice.

      Plants create essential sodium in a form our bodies can use as nature intended. Through photosynthesis, plants bind inorganic minerals to a protein molecule. This process transforms the inorganic minerals into a form that is metabolically in tune with the sodium the body needs

      Juice or eat sodium rich plant life. Pills and tablets are not the answer to proper nutrition and never have been.

      • It depends where you are, as an expat in africa we where required to take a daily salt tablet, to rebalance the salts lost due to excessive perspiration in the very hot climate.

        • No it doesn’t depend on where you are, it depends on whether you ingest compounds you don’t need, instead of compounds the body does need.

  7. Human physiology developed more than 50 million years ago in tropical rainforests.

    Our ape ancestors had negligible sodium intake and a massive potassium intake.

    Experiments on chimpanzees show that a sodium intake over 800mg/day causes hypertension. Intakes over 10g/day cause severe hypertension (>30mmHg increase in systolic BP.)

    • FS – Thank you for some rationality and science here! Can’t people just look at salt and see that it is an extracted chemical? Can’t they see that it became popular as a way to preserve meat, i.e., beef jerky?

      • According to mainstream science our evolutionary tree branched away from from gorillas more than 4 million years ago. Chances are we have a few genes that are a bit different than theirs. Especially ones related to diet. Many rainforests have limited growth due to sodium deficiencies and other minerals (paper online “Sodium shortage as a constraint on the carbon cycle in an inland tropical rainforest”) Too much rain causes it to be washed out to sea. Gorillas living in a salt poor environment would have been forced to adapt to this condition to survive there. Being able to substitute sodium for potassium would be a nifty trick especially if the foods they eat are higher in potassium. Humans are among the handful of mammals that have evolved to sweat and tend to loose a lot of salt, which does not seem to be problem for us because unlike gorillas maybe we didn’t have the same evolutionary pressure to conserve salt in a depleted environment. Bottom line? A hot day outside, sweating while painting your fence would probably cause a larger salt loss to you than what a gorilla could acquire from its natural diet in days. No wonder they sick when we feed them too much salt.

    • It is truly wonderful that your cardiac arrhythmia and audible palpitation has gone using sea salt.

      You say that table salt would have corrected your heart’s faulty behaviour just fine, tho’ you didn’t use table salt, presumably because it is full of toxic anti caking agents, aluminum hydroxide, an alloy linked to brain disease, bleached, and oh yes, just a touch of ferro cyanide for good measure.

      Wise choice to stay away from industrialised, chemically adulterated, toxic sodium chloride products.

  8. Dr. put me on no-salt diet 2 weeks ago. Now feel tired all the time and since then have double vision and trouble reading even with glasses. Maybe the brain is affected ?

    • A “no salt diet” ? What does that mean? You cannot eat anything at all that is totally devoid of all “SALTS”

      Do you mean he advised you to stop eating table salt?

      If so the body now has chance to dump all the industrial pollutants from table salt into your bloodstream, possibly resulting in your symptoms.

      • Andrew, I think what Lewis and the article is referring to by “salt” is the molecule NaCl.

        The quantity in which it is consumed affects the body in ways a lot more powerful and significant than the toxic pollutant additives you’re bringing up.

        • I agree that ingesting unnecessary table salt is seriously damaging to health. However I don’t agree that table salt has a more “powerful and significant” affect on the body, than decades of ingesting table salt’s metabolic pollutants of aluminates, fluoride, anti-caking agents, toxic amounts of potassium iodide and aluminium derivatives linked to brain disease.

      • Man, Kresser sure had a bunch of whackjobs trolling his site 4 years ago. This is funny.

    • Yes, hyponatremia symptoms include inability to focus, confusion, and fatigue.

      • Can the body de-salinize in such a very short time to produce hyponatraemia?

        Unless the diet, not only restricted from toxic industrialised table salt, is also restricted in eating the correct foods that govern all the electrolytes.

        Or the body is simply metabolically challenged due to decades of eating dead food laced with toxic, polluted preservatives like industrialised table salt.

        • It took (24 years old) me about 3 months of not eating prepared meals, cooked meats and very little canned foods for arrhythmias and palpitations to show up.

          I was and am still eating primarily fruit and raw vegetables and optional small amounts of everything else (legumes, grains, seeds, nuts, meat, dairy and honey; as raw as possible), with the difference that now I periodically include a salty meal (canned fish, and I drink the brine).

          My systolic is 110-115, diastolic 70-75, pulse 80.

          • Have you ever considered getting your blood checked for sodium levels?

            If you were also eating toxic prepared meals,
            cooked meats loaded with preservatives, anti biotics and growth hormones and some canned foods, there is every chance that when you stopped eating these toxins, your arrhythmias and palpitations were not caused by less toxic sodium chloride in your body, but caused when you body was given the opportunity to dump metabolic pollutants and toxic waste into your blood stream.
            A change of diet for the better often results in an initial crisis for the body.

            • My blood happened to be checked a few weeks before my so-called sodium (or chloride) deficiency episode. Sodium had never worried me up until then, I had gotten the test because I wanted to see the effects of my intermittent fasting (I had been eating one big meal every two days for about 2 months).

              Last time I saw my doctor we consulted the results only rapidly, because nothing stood out except my lower than optimal protein level (after eating only fruit and vegetables for 3 months, which is to be expected when you come from a life of eating meat at least once a day).

              Now I want to cut off sodium completely again (I got my hands on a big overstock of deli meats, it took me a month to go through them, that got me full of salt again), and intermittent fast more intensely (at least 48 hours between each meal, I can do 72 easily now), wait and see if the heart symptom will return, when they do (or even if they don’t), go get checked up again, and return to my doctor and get the full print of my history.

              I will reply to this comment with the sodium levels and other data, just give me about two months to try and flush up the sodium I’ve eaten and intermittent fast more.

              My blood pressure after eating much salt again at every meal for a almost a month is still 110/70.

  9. Serge Alex Gagnon said

    “Sodium deficiency for me manifested itself as cardiac arrhythmia and audible palpitation before falling asleep. I started adding salt to my water and the problem suddenly vanished”

    It’s a shame that we don’t know what you mean by salt.
    The industrialised toxin, that is table salt, full of anti caking agents and bleached? Sea salt? Rock salt?

    Confusion reigns when the word salt is used, as if it has only one meaning. What salts are you referring to?

  10. Sodium deficiency for me manifested itself as cardiac arrhythmia and audible palpitation before falling asleep. I started adding salt to my water and the problem suddenly vanished.

  11. I just came back from 12 days at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, FL. My personal result made me a believer in Low Salt (No Salt) diets. My Blood Pressure dropped 19 points on the systolic pressure in the first week.

    This a a quote from there website:
    In 2005, a meta-analysis of 1,117 hypertensives who came to Pritikin reported that systolic blood pressure fell on average 9%. Diastolic pressure fell 9%. Of those on blood pressure drugs, 55% returned home free of their drugs, their blood pressures in the normal range. Many of the remaining 45% left Pritikin with their dosages substantially reduced.

    I never knew of a person that died or even a 911 call from lack of salt. I do know of millions that have died from Hi Salt diets.

    • James – You are right on. I believe the extensive experience of the Pritikin Center, the Rice Diet Center at Duke University, and countless others who advocate eating only the natural sodium in food.
      Salt was first used as a preservative / drying agent. No animals seek sodium chloride. Salt licks are enticing to animals, but unnecessary.

  12. It is a shame that the word salt will be manifestly confusing when entering discussions such as this. Though sodium and chlorine as other “salts” are essential, the poison that is industrialised table salt has only a detrimental effect on the body, given you are eating some fruit and vegetables daily.
    Admittedly if for some reason you manage to deplete your body of all “salts” (Pottasium, Magnesium etc.) highly unlikely on any diet) then you will become very sick and probably die. If you never touch sodium chloride in the form of industrialised table salt, you will automatically be healthier, as all the sodium required is fruits and veggies. I have proved it I never touch table salt, am 63 go logging, gardening, cycling, mountain climbing, swimming and tree climbing etc etc. I eat and drink nothing from a tin or can or packet or bottle and have now cured my asthma having been told by professionals that my asthma was incurable.

    • Andrew – Cool – Awesome! Thanks.
      I assume your blood pressure is pretty good. Can you let us know?

      • Ron. Sorry this has taken ages. Been away sailing. Yes totally normal blood pressure, as you would expect from not ingesting any forms of sodium chloride.

        • Andrew – Thanks – I stopped NaCl and get my sodium from food — mainly spinach, carrots, tomatoes — I’ll watch my BP to see.
          Pointed out in today’s Wall Street Journal is that NaCl causes fibrosis in kidneys and ll blood vessels and is primary cause of kidney failure and most strokes . . .

  13. I’ve been on a no salt diet for over 2 months, and this is the 3rd time i’ve chosen to do so. It’s effects on consciousness are astounding, so much so, that I firmly believe via personal experience that salt is an addiction and toxin to the body. If you wish to inquire more or address this concern in your body and empower your authentic self so that you feel and think radiantly, let me know. If you wish to continue to feel and function less than exquisitely, less than brilliantly, here I am to activate you.

    • Hi Matthew – I am very interested in talking with you about this. I have gotten salt pretty low now, and I notice many MDs and RDs are recommending NO added salt. Now, when I eat NaCl, I can actually taste the chlorine ion – no kidding!
      You invited us to get in touch with you, but how?

    • Hey Matthew, I’m interested to know are you cutting added salt or keeping sodium low in general?

      Are you exercising regularly and/or do you live in a hot/warm climate?

      Also what’s an average daily breakdown of what you eat. I’m intrigued as to how you prevent hyponatraemia, especially if/when you are doing your recommended 30 mins of exercise 3-5 days per week?

  14. Hi Chris,

    I think your article was very informative. You have laid out your thoughts so well, that everything you said actually made a lot of sense to me!

    I hate it when people tell me not to each too much salt. I eat adequately, take care to get enough physical exercise, fresh air and clean water, and I have never visited a doctor in over 36 years. I feel that too much of anything is bad, and everything in moderation can give you an extremely satisfying life! (Although a healthy salt intake can actually be good for you!)

    Thank you for your time in enlightening us with your study!

  15. Hi everyone. In this article Chris mentions that sodium deficiency “can lead to impaired sympathetic cardiovascular adjustments to stress” Something I definitely wanted to dig deeper for a richer understanding. But unfortunately, the link that points to his citation is dead. Anyone know what study Chris was alluding to? Running a pubmed and google scholar search came up empty. If anyone can point me in the right direction, it would be a great help.

      • yes it sure does I had to visit the emergency hosp when I was feeling weak and throwing up they said my salt reading was 105 should be 135 to 145 and they gave me sodium drip for a week now ok and have a monthly blood test to watch my sodium and potassium levels

  16. I wonder if hunter gathers living near the ocean, and eating salty ocean fish and seaweed obtained the right amount of salt. If you lived inland, you did not get enough salt. Perhaps humans were meant to get salt through the ocean and live near coastines.

  17. So, I have increased my daily salt intake without increasing my calories and I am losing weight. About 5 pounds a week. Why would this be?

  18. Very interesting article.I get terrible muscle cramps(all over my body) and take a magnesium supplement.I realised that alone was not helping.I increased my salt,potassium and water intake and it seems to have done the trick.