July 20, 2012 by MARCO TORRES
Less Salt Is Not Only Bad For Your Health, It Can Increase Your Risk of Death
The need to reduce the amount of salt in our diets has been one of the most persistent, yet misguided public health messages from the past two decades. We've all been told that reducing our consumption of salt will reduce disease and save thousands of lives per year. However, as usual, public health advice is once again the last advice you should follow.
Actually, if the government has their way, they would drive salt intake down even further to scarce levels. Some health watchdogs have proposed the incredibly ignorant plan to call for average consumption to be cut below 2g per day in just over a decade.
The reality is that too little salt is just as dangerous as too much, and that continuing to drive levels down will actually lead to an increase in deaths from heart disease. A paper published in the American Journal of Hypertension warns that once average daily consumption dips to below 6.25g, the risk of heart attacks and strokes starts to increase once more. Restricting salt consumption increases levels of cholesterol and triglycerides -- both of them harmful fats which cause heart disease -- and also leads to insulin resistance (the early stages of type-2 diabetes). Diets low in salt also increase the levels of fat and hormones in the blood that are known to increase the risk of heart disease.
A study by lead researcher Dr. Niels Graudal, of Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, adds to a growing body of research questioning the long-term benefits of a low-salt diet. A review of seven previous studies published in the journal the Cochrane Library found that a moderate reduction in salt intake did not reduce a person's risk of dying or having heart disease.
The problem is not salt, it's the type of salt we use.
It takes just half an hour for one meal high in table salt to significantly impair the arteries’ ability to pump blood around the body, alarming research has shown. Blood flow becomes temporarily more restricted between 30 minutes and an hour after the food has been consumed.
When it comes to matters of health, salt has got a lot of bad press. Consequently, public health officials have unknowingly created an iodine deficiency.
In its purest form, unrefined natural salt is necessary for many bodily functions. It helps create critical body fluids, such as blood plasma and lymphatic fluid, carry nutrients to cells, regulate blood pressure and nerve impulses and is a factor in allowing your brain to communicate with your muscles so you can move.
Many experts argue that salt could be just what we need for healing, health and longevity. Modern salt, they agree, is unhealthy. But common table salt has almost nothing in common with traditional salt, say the salt connoisseurs. Just look at the rose-coloured crystals of Himalayan rock salt, or the grey texture of Celtic salt -- both pride themselves on traditional harvesting, avoiding heat treatment or refining methods -- and you know you're getting something special, not least that when you taste them, they actually have flavour. And unlike the sodium chloride you find on most kitchen tables, unrefined rock salt contains more than 84 different minerals.
"These mineral salts are identical to the elements of which our bodies have been built and were originally found in the primal ocean from where life originated," argues Dr Barbara Hendel, researcher and co-author of Water & Salt, The Essence of Life. "We have salty tears and salty perspiration. The chemical and mineral composition of our blood and body fluids are similar to sea water. From the beginning of life, as unborn babies, we are encased in a sack of salty fluid."
Nutritionist Patrick Holford goes one step further. He claims that high-sodium table salt has more to account for than just high blood pressure and heart disease and can actually create mineral imbalances that lead to health problems. "Minerals work together and need to be balanced," he explains. "For example, potassium and magnesium works with sodium to regulate water balance and nerve and muscle impulses. The more sodium you eat, the more potassium and magnesium you need. Few of us eat enough of these, yet we eat high amounts of sodium in salt. This leads to potassium and magnesium deficiency, where muscles become tight, nerves become over stimulated and you feel more anxious."
As magnesium is involved in maintaining bone density and hormone balance, low levels may compromise bone strength and lead to premenstrual problems. That's where swapping table salt for mineral-rich salt can make a difference.
"A lot of people say salt is bad, but bad salt is bad," says Amanda Nelson, founder of The Natural Salt Seller. "If you put a fish in table salt solution, it will die. Good salt, on the other hand, can be wondrous."
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.