The Roundup - Edition 15

The Roundup

by Chris Kresser

Last updated on

Here is The Roundup, Edition 15, bringing you the best from around the web from the past two weeks!

Blast from the Past

Dr. Arya Sharma, founder and Scientific Director of the Canadian Obesity Network, recently wrote a post on the evidence in favor of universal sodium reduction, and described it as “less than conclusive”. Dr. Sharma spent the first 10 years of his research career studying the effects of sodium on blood pressure, and he has found that the evidence is mixed at best, and that there is evidence for potential harm as well. As Dr. Sharma writes, “in some cases we even reported adverse consequences of sodium restriction resulting both in significant elevations in plasma lipids and insulin resistance (perhaps not surprising given that reducing sodium intake markedly stimulates both the sympathetic and renin-angiotensin systems – the very systems we seek to block to reduce cardiovascular risk).”

This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who has read my series on salt, which touches on those same concerns that Dr. Sharma has brought to light. In particular, my article on the dangers of salt restriction notes that 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, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Ironically, it is these two populations that are frequently told to reduce sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams, or about one teaspoon per day.

While I don’t promote the consumption of high-sodium packaged and processed foods, I’ve said many times before that most healthy people can happily add 1.5 to 3.5 teaspoons of unrefined salt to their whole foods diet. There are a few exceptions to this, such as people with kidney disease, but in general I believe that salt restriction for the general population is not only unnecessary, but potentially dangerous. It would appear that Dr. Sharma might agree with me.

Research Report

  • Could this research suggest another reason to avoid grains? It’s a mechanistic study, but it’s interesting.
  • A fascinating study shows higher prevalence of SIBO in Parkinson’s patients, and eradication improves symptoms.
  • Research suggests that classroom naps support learning in preschool children by enhancing memory.
  • A study demonstrates that the heritability of sleep duration is between 31%-55%, which suggests a substantial amount of sleep need is genetically determined.
  • Another study shows that shorter sleep duration increases expression of genetic risks for high body weight.

Worth A Look

  • Louis C.K. opines on smartphones for kids: I couldn’t agree more.
  • The New York Times explains how most women aren’t getting support for breastfeeding by their insurance companies.
  • Diane Sanfilippo shares her view on flax and chia seeds, juice cleanses, and green drinks.
  • Ancestralize Me has compiled a list of the ten most nutrient-dense foods you can eat, and all of her suggestions are budget-friendly.

For the Foodies

  1. Chris
    I see in this article you mentioned 1.5 – 3.5 teaspoons of unrefined sea salt. Is that correct or did you mean 1.5 – 3.5 grams. I would appreciate some clarity.

    All the best
    Kevin

  2. Both of the sleep studies link to the same article about sleep duration and BMI, I’d be interested in the link for the one discussing heritability of sleep duration. Thanks!

  3. I have kidney stones. A couple weeks ago, my urologist said I needed to take potassium citrate, drink lots of water, and cut way back on salt. True, my potassium intake is below rda. My sodium was below rda too. I wasn’t drinking quite 8 glasses/day.
    The day after taking the potassium citrate, I woke up with bad cramps in my legs. I got completely lost in a place I know fairly well close to my house. I stopped the potassium but I have been trying to get rda from my diet. And counting how much water. And going very low sodium.
    The result, lots of cramps, brain fog (forgetting what I was thinking or saying, getting lost, forgetting words,forgetting how to do simple things, etc.) and shaky hands (hard to type, mouse or read the paper.)

    Very bad today. Was about to call doc but first I read about sodium deficiency. Then I added lots of sea salt to my lunch. Symptoms much improved.

    Coincidence? I think not.

  4. I don’t know if I can actually cook something without salt. I don’t really eat salty food but you have to admit, salt brings out the flavor of each ingredient. Cooking without it is too much for me.

  5. Why not just regular ol’ iodized salt?
    Low risk of heavy metal or halide contamination.
    And it’s rich in iodine 🙂

  6. From the IOM report:
    “With regard to implications for population-based efforts, the committee finds that:

    The available evidence on associations between sodium intake and direct health outcomes is consistent with population-based efforts to lower excessive dietary sodium intakes.
    The evidence on health outcomes is not consistent with efforts that encourage lowering of dietary sodium in the general population to 1,500 mg/day.
    There is no evidence on health outcomes to support treating population subgroups differently from the general U.S. population.”

  7. It’s good to see salt getting its day in the sun.

    As a student in the AND dietetics program, we are taught that the specific diet to treat hypertension is the same to prevent it, for everyone. Of course this involves low-sodium foods, but also the elimination of the salt shaker.

    Hard to take this conventional training seriously (really, get rid of the salt shaker?) when only roughly 10% of sodium intake comes from the salt shaker. And the fact that the professor says “You sea salt people drive me crazy.”

    Thanks for real information!