A couple of interesting tidbits about salt and health came my way via Facebook this morning.  Check out the Q & A from this online article:

Q: Isn’t there universal agreement that these low sodium targets are best for everyone?

A: Although most researchers agree that excessively high sodium intake is not good for health, there is disagreement about the ideal level of daily sodium intake. Dr. David McCarron and other researchers from the University of California at Davis and Washington University in St. Louis have questioned the feasibility of aiming for such low sodium intake targets. McCarron and colleagues point out that contrary to popular belief, sodium intake has not increased or decreased during recent decades and that humans naturally consume significantly more than the new recommendations for potentially valid physiological reasons.

It is well-known that sodium is one of the few nutrients for which humans have a “specific appetite,” meaning that if we are low in the nutrient we crave, we seek out foods that provide it. McCarron stresses that when sodium levels in the body drop too low, there are a series of hormonal responses that may have undesirable long-term consequences.

Q: What are some possible negative consequences of excessive reduction of sodium intake?

A: Two studies out of Australia, hot off the press in the journal Diabetes Care, report that for both type 1 and type 2 diabetics, low sodium intake was associated with increased risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease and all other causes. This was not completely surprising because it is known that low sodium intake results in increased insulin resistance. This means that more insulin is needed to stimulate insulin-sensitive cells to remove glucose from the blood. Although these studies do not prove cause and effect, they do stress the need for caution in making sodium recommendations and the need to conduct appropriately controlled human studies.

Another study found that when adults (ages 40 to 65 whose blood pressure exceeded 120 over 80) added vegetable juice containing 480 to 960 mg of sodium to their daily diet, their blood pressure dropped during this 12-week study. This juice also added a similar amount of potassium to their diets.

McCarron points out that worldwide sodium intake varies between about 3,100 and 3,800 mg per day. When sodium intake drops too far below 3,000 mg per day, hormonal changes apparently trigger the drive to seek out food sources of sodium.

Low sodium intake increases insulin resistance?  Have to admit, that was a new one on me.  But here’s a link to a study that came to exactly that conclusion.

Yeah, uh, but, you see, there’s this one tribe in the Amazon where people have a low sodium intake and they’re really, really healthy …

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26 Responses to “More On Salt …”
  1. fredt says:

    Sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium concentrations are all connected, When we get enough potassium, calcium and magnesium our “appetite” aka, our need for sodium declines. In fact, it is effected by all the positive ions, but those are the big ones. Most of us are low on magnesium.

    Magnesium and fiber have the same effect– keep moisture in the stool. We can adjust the amount of magnesium we need by this. When we have sufficient magnesium, we do not need fiber.

    I intake salt for the iodine, as iodine supplements are not available in Canada. If the government wants to have us use less salt, they need to make iodine supplements available.

    I’ve read that potassium intake has more of an effect on blood pressure than sodium; i.e., foods high in potassium help ot keep blood pressure down.

  2. Marilyn says:

    A low sodium/insulin resistance connection. Interesting.

  3. Marilyn says:

    I wonder if it works the other way around, too??? I know of someone who is insulin resistant whose blood work always shows sodium at the extreme low end of normal, in spite of unrestricted salt intake.

    Interesting. If anything, I’d expect elevated insulin to lead to more fluid and sodium retention.

  4. Carole says:

    Tom, I just want you know how grateful I am for all the work you’ve done with all this information! I sat with my jaw on the floor pretty much the whole way through Fathead the first time I saw it, and now I do “crazy” things, like eat bacon & eggs w/cheese without guilt, and shop for organic lard. And even salt our food! I love it!

    Thanks for covering so much info. I’m getting more and more irritated with the ‘powers that be’ in just about every realm. I’ve begun to wonder just how much of the mainstream advice out there is right. Whaddya think, maye 10-15%? Exercise is good. Eat your veggies. That might be about it!

    You have somehow sidestepped the requirement that, having reached a position to impact millions of people’s health, one become lazy and/or stupid and begin to care only about money & power. And we appreciate it!!

    Thank you.

  5. But, but, it’s the pants Tom. That tribe in the Amazon doesn’t wear pants and they have holes in their faces. That’s why they’re healthy. :)

    So if we’re craving salt, it’s a sign we need to drop our pants.

  6. Walter B says:

    Ah, this ties with gnolls.com — J. Stanton

    Talks about the efforts and danger animals will go through to get salt in particular. He is, IIUC, putting forth the message that satiety can only be achieved when all our nutritional needs are met and until this point we are going to continue eating. If salt is needed, then perhaps the person will continue to eat until the need is satisfied.

    Anyway a very good series in four parts.

  7. Auntie M says:

    Hmmm…..I’m drinking a TON of water because I’m preggers…..maybe I need to increase my salt intake to counteract all the liquid, and maybe it will reduce my insulin needs….. I have been craving salty things. :)

    Could be. If you’re craving salt, there’s probably a reason.

  8. Milton says:

    “Although most researchers agree that excessively high sodium intake is not good for health”

    I would think that “excessively high” intake of anything is not good for health. Thank you, oh dedicated researchers, for spending all of that grant money to provide us with the equivalent of “water is wet.”

    Well said.

  9. fredt says:

    Was it iodized salt? Did they make up for the iodine? If the subject were sub-clinical iodine deficient, the iodine alone would have that effect. I am to cheep to buy the study.

    I just tried the link and got a message about technical difficulties. Probably a salt shortage on the server.

  10. Vanessa says:

    I remember in one Victorious episode (Victorious is a TV show) they go to a foreign country, and one of them gets bitten by a poisonous moth. Later they show him eating salt by the spoonful and saying that an extreme craving for salt is one of the symptoms of the bite. I was watching that thinking, the USDA would be horrified :)

  11. Patricia says:

    Since the weather has been much warmer lately, I’d had suddenly begun experiencing godawful muscle cramps that would wake me up in the middle of the night. Felt like someone hit me in the leg with a sledge hammer. Excrutiating! I salt my food liberally so it didn’t occur to me that I might need MORE salt.

    A few weeks ago I was perusing Dr. Eades’ site and he explained how he remineralizes his water because he had experienced the same thing. Simply a dash of (real) salt in a glass of water several times a day. Bingo! Works like a charm . . . no more leg cramps and I just feel all over better. Affects me very differently in water than on food. Thank you, Dr. Eades!

    Or maybe it’s because I’m wearing pants less often because it’s been too hot.

    I don’t suppose you tried poking holes in your skin?

  12. john says:

    “…excessively high sodium intake is not good for health…” What kind of researcher thinks “excessive” Na (or any nutrient) is good for health–I’m pretty sure that would be an illogical statement.

    Anyway, not that it’s humans, but Na restricted rats have several developmental problems, as well as insulin resistance like mentioned. Humans on a low calorie, protein-only diet lose more muscle than those on protein+carbs, but not when given ample amounts of Na and K (other micros probably matter too). As Barry Groves referenced in his old salt article, high carbers retain more Na, so it’s perhaps even more important for high fat dieters to get enough, especially since smart ones are eating unpackaged, low Na foods. There are lots of low carb failure stories, many of them sounding something like, “I did everything perfect–all I ate was meat and water.” I guess you have people who fail at the other end of the spectrum too who eat all kinds of fake crap but low “net carb.” Maybe the people who have sodium sensitivities do so because they’re constantly hyperglycemic and pissing out all their Ca and Mg.

  13. GuineaPig says:

    We should take the USDA’s recommendations with a pinch of salt.(couldn’t hold the pun any longer )

  14. bec says:

    Low sodium associated with insulin resistance makes a lot of sense to me.

  15. Dragonmamma/Naomi says:

    It’s been a long time since I read up on this (so I don’t remember my sources, sorry) but I came to the conclusion that it’s the potassium/magnesium/sodium ratios that are important, in much the same way that omega-3/omega-6 and omega 9 are related. It’s important to have sufficient potassium and magnesium in our diets, and then a high sodium content isn’t really a big deal.

    That’s what some of the articles I’ve read concluded: potassium intake matters at least as much as sodium intake.

  16. Per Wikholm says:

    Even moore salt, in a study published in JAMA:
    http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/305/17/1777.abstract

    “Conclusions In this population-based cohort, systolic blood pressure, but not diastolic pressure, changes over time aligned with change in sodium excretion, but this association did not translate into a higher risk of hypertension or CVD complications. Lower sodium excretion was associated with higher CVD mortality.”

    Interesting results: low salt intake associated with more CVD. But beeing an observetional study the conclutions should of cause be taken with a grain of salt.

    A big grain of salt, and no pants.

  17. Drew says:

    Wonder what the results would be for salt substitute potassium chloride?

  18. TonyNZ says:

    Off topic, but did you know that the problem with third world healthcare is that they just don’t get enough drugs.

    Pretty much fits with mindset of modern medicine: disease is a condition caused by lack of medications.

  19. There are a lot of assumptions in this paper that may have you shouting at the PC but the idea that increased dietary fructose intake stimulates salt absorption in the small intestine and kidney tubules, resulting in a state of salt overload may be worth considering.
    The Role of Salt in the Pathogenesis of Fructose-Induced Hypertension

    I’d dump the excess fructose and keep the salt. And I’d still want to know why clinical studies that included drastic salt reduction failed to budge blood pressure by more than a couple of points.

  20. Verbs2011 says:

    Its simple and straight forward for me now, whatever the government recommends, I just do the opposite. This reduction in salt conspiracy is simply more government guff being propagated. In fact, I would go as far to say that increasing salt in your diet can and will reduce high blood pressure and solve alot of other bodily ailments. The governments of the world are so full of nonsense.

  21. D. Sterner says:

    A while ago, I noticed that salt tended to lower my blood sugar. I asked the question “Can salt lower blood sugar?” on PaleoHacks a while back: http://paleohacks.com/questions/38632/can-salt-lower-blood-sugar#axzz1WRD4gVGq I followed up my question with more research and it turns out that there are Sodium Glucose Transporters! Also this paper is interesting: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18369340 (Btw, Nice to see you at AHS, even if I didn’t get to shake your hand. I always acknowledge what a tremendous influence you and Dr. Eades have been in my nutritional enlightenment!)

    We’ll shake hands next time.

  22. Marilyn says:

    Meanwhile. . . I was just reading an enthusiastic article about how the shiny new school lunches are going to be LOWER salt, lower fat, lower calories, lots of yummy steamed vegetables — with minimum salt and no buttter — given cutsey names like “dinasaur broccoli,” so the kids will gobble them up. I can only imagine what unsalted, unbuttered broccoli will be like after sitting on a steam table for an indefinite time. . .

    And then they’ll conduct a million-dollar study to determine why kids aren’t eating their school lunches.

  23. Eliza says:

    When i don’t eat enough salt, I get major headaches. I usually don’t really bother adding salt to all my food, and I exercise a lot so i sweat a lot especially since it’s August, and I swear after two hours of soccer practice in the late afternoon there’s nothing better than 600 milligrams of sodium in the form of a processed cucumber.

  24. ML says:

    This might explain the so-called “Japanese Paradox”. They eat a lot more salt over there.

    Yup.

  25. TonyNZ says:

    Well at least the New Zealand media picked up on it.

    It’s a good start.

  26. aajayunlimited says:

    I’ve noticed that salt–whether it is high sugar side effects or it lowers blood sugar–has positive effects in this area. When I feel extremely nauseated from having eaten too much sugar at a sitting or over time, salt almost completely reverses it! It needs to be checked out, because it does work! Salt may raise the blood pressure and it does, but what if sugar and salt actually intercept and counteract each other?! Still, even if this isn’t the case, vinegar and its recipes(mustard, hot sauce, etc.); garlic; onions; hot peppers; etc. all lower the blood pressure significantly, so why all the fuss about a little salt here and there to help with rising blood sugar? Sugar is not easily avoidable at a moderate level, esp. if you are poor, in debt, or have a fairly good sized family. Salt helps you in this area, but(there’s garlic salt), cinnamon, turmeric powder, ginger, onion, etc. to be used colaberatively. Salt effects are almost immediate; so, go beyond what the gov’t/health officials say. Find out what many users say about it! Weigh this what the pundits say, because the pundits often are either biased or influenced by someone or something(this could be the way they were taught or this way could be outdated practice or MONEY or fear).

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