Salt is good for you

Last year, the Federal CDC backed off from 50 years of advising everyone (and especially heart patients) to limit their salt intake.  A meta-analysis of many studies showed that eating salt was not associated with increased risk for any disease.  Here is my blog on the subject from last June.

Feel free…

Now that the doors have been opened to question long-established medical advice, a bit more of the truth has emerged:  Cutting back salt is dangerous.  Risks for mortality and various cardiovascular outcomes were 10-15% higher for people who cut back on salt, compared to people who salted their food to taste.  That’s a lot of excess disease, and the number of people who have been affected is many millions.  In my opinion, it is a major scandal that epidemiologists have failed to correct their stand over a period of 50 years.

Results were consolidated from 25 different published studies, using different criteria and different age ranges.  It took some fancy statistical footwork.  Even more challenging is the fact that most people who are limiting sodium intake are doing so because doctors have told them they have elevated risk for heart attacks.  So it’s not straightforward to compare the risks among low-salt and normal-salt groups, because they’re not comparable populations.  The authors of this study understand this, of course, and claim to have done the statistics appropriately.  My guess is that there was a tendency to under-state the difference, both because the results are so damning to the medical establishment, and because larger claims expose the authors to more criticism.  For these reasons, it is likely that the reported cost of lowering salt intake may rise further from 10-15% reported here in coming years.

The article was titled Compared With Usual Sodium Intake, Low-and Excessive-Sodium Diets Are Associated With Increased Mortality: A Meta-Analysis

Lead author of the study, Dr Niels Graudal of Copenhagen University says, “The good news,” he says, “is that around 95% of the global population already consumes within the range we’ve found to generate the least instances of mortality and cardiovascular disease.”
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16 thoughts on “Salt is good for you

  1. “Cutting back salt is dangerous. Risks for mortality and various cardiovascular outcomes were 10-15% higher for people who cut back on salt, compared to people who salted their food to taste.”

    I couldn’t think of a more obvious example of reverse causation. Most poeple who cut back on salt do so because they have health issues and have been adviced accordingly by their physicians. This is such a strong confounder that it is unlikely to be fully corrected for even with the most comprehensive statistical adjustment.

    What this study clearly shows, though, is that a usual level of salt intake does indeed pose no risk, at least not for the majority of poeple whose blood pressure isn’t sensitive to sodium intake.

    • I agree this is a large confounder, and (as I wrote) the authors of the study were well aware of this, too. Your guess is that they didn’t adequately compensate for it. My guess is that they over-compensated for it in an understandable effort to be conservative.

      • According to the second article you included, too much salt and to little salt are bad for you — the old happy mean the ancient Greeks adhered to still applies, “Nothing in excess”. And too little salt? Considering that sodium ions coursing through the plasma membrane of neurons is what makes them run, and the hydrochloric acid that your stomach uses to process food, the Cl- ions come from sodium’s partner in NaCl. There a reason salt was an important medium of economic exchange for centuries (worth his weight in salt). The problem is in the American fast-food universe, everything is already salted, the meat, the ketchup, the sauces – that adding addition salt could raise your intake to excessive levels (though I don’t think it’s that dangerous). What other advice have we received from health experts that they refuted years later? At one time physicians treated patients with hemorrhoids or diverticulae by telling the patient to avoid ‘roughage’ (called “fiber” today, “plus qu’il change, plus qu’il reste meme”) – the exact opposite of what we know to be true to day – that’s what happens when you try to run science and medicine by ‘commonsense’ and make unstated, un-tested assumptions.

        • Yes – thank you, Harold. I had left that out, but it is true. There is such a thing as too much salt. The amount most people consume based on taste turns out to be optimal, as close as epidemiology is able to discern.

  2. I also think that” salt is good for you” ,but too much salt and too little salt is bad for you. Research has shown that too little salt can cause various cardiovascular diseases, but most people do so because the doctors have told them to cut down the salt level.but they are at risk of getting heart attack compared to people who salted their food for taste.I think that what is important is that one has to check the food he or she eat in order to live a healthy life.

  3. Cutting back on salt is dangerous. Table salt contains about 40% of sodium which is vital for many functions of the body such as muscle contractions, nerve transmissions, maintaining pH balance, and hydration. A benefit of salt in modern society is how iodine forms part of the composition of salt, where as we our diet lacked iodine resulting in the main cause of sporadic goiters. Iodine salt helps give our bodies a required mineral reducing the great risk of sporadic goiters. This is noticeably helpful in poor and over populated countries were iodine salt can be easily and economically added to their staple diet. Helping avoid a disease unlike kwashiorkor cause by malnutrition in children which the government can only have so much control over. There for salt does have noticeable benefits and should not be cut down unnecessary, keeping in mind proportion.

  4. Quite an interesting article, since I can remember my grandmother was constantly reminding us to watch our salt intake; I wonder what she’s going to have to say when I tell her out this article.

    I would like to know though: what is the recommended range of salt intake per day, and are there actually negative side effects if an individual consumes more than the recommended amount? Also, is a high salt intake dangerous for people with cardiovascular diseases, or people that are susceptible to such heart diseases?

    Thanks for the insight.

    Yours faithfully
    Devan Winterton
    14011426

  5. This is a huge change in the perspective I had about salt in-take. All these years the focus has been on decreasing our salt in-take and discussing how bad it is for our health. Now also looking at its benefits,changes how I thought of it. Actually salt in our diet plays a role in water retention, muscle contraction and contains nutrients that are vital to the stomach. Though we must be careful of how much we take in and not to necessarily eliminate it.

  6. I think that this is a very interesting article. As its gives us a new perspective about our intake of salts. Initially I was of the opinion that we should always try to limit one’s salt intake. However, upon reading this article I am enlightened and do believe I now share a different perspective on salt and its benefits to the body, such as reducing risks for mortality and various cardiovascular outcomes, helping water retention in the body and in turn keeping us hydrated. I do , however, strongly believe that people should not have excessive salt intake, as people and their health conditions differ, therefore, each individual will need their own considerable amount of salt intake in order to stay healthy and fit.

  7. Cutting back on salt can be dangerous.

    Salt contains about 40% of sodium which is vital for many functions of the body such as muscle contractions, nerve transmissions, maintaining pH balance, and hydration. A benefit of salt in modern society is how iodine forms part of the composition of some salts, where as in our diet there is a lack of iodine resulting in the main cause of sporadic goiters.

    Iodine salt helps give our bodies a required mineral, reducing the great risk of sporadic goiters. This is noticeably helpful in poor and over populated countries were iodine salt can be easily and economically added to their staple diet. Helping avoid a disease unlike kwashiorkor caused by malnutrition in children, which the government can only have so much control over.

    There for salt does have noticeable benefits and should not be cut down unnecessary, keeping in mind proportion.

    Kineta Travern
    14019737

  8. Adequate salt consumption encourages a
    healthy weight and fast metabolism . First, one
    study showed that increased salt intake leads to
    an increase in the elimination of cortisol and
    lower blood cortisol levels. Imbalanced or excess
    cortisol means weight gain and a stagnant
    metabolism.If you have kidney disease or hypertension,
    it is a good idea to consult with a medical practitioner
    before increasing salt intake.Most importantly, listen to your body . Let your salt craving and desire for seasoning dictate how
    much salt to consume.

  9. Salt IS good for you.
    All of a sudden, it seems all that time spent studying the causes of hypertension in biology and gladly listing salt as the major cause all down the drain. But I wont say I did not have my doubts because the reason that we were given always seemed suspicious. The explanation went something like, salt causes blood vessels to contract which in turn restricts movement of blood in these blood vessels. This to me seemed a long shot because logically even though a salt solution causes plasmolysis in plant cells, the same rationale suggested to me that salt in the quantities of half a kilogram per meal would be sufficient to plasmolyse a significant amount of blood vessels leading to high blood pressure. But as such quantities of salt are not practical at any level I was waiting for some further research that would disprove this urban myth and I think I just found the piece I have been looking for in this article.

  10. Appreciating the dedication you put into your site and in depth
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    a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed material.
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