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To salt or not to salt?

Posted Mar 21 2011 4:29pm

Widespread media coverage of the dangers of salt and it’s toxic affect on health has it in the dog house along side smoking. Can a substance that has been liberally used for centuries as a spice and a preservative be all that bad for everyone?

Salt, technically speaking sodium is one of the electrolytes . Others include potassium, calcium, chloride, and magnesium. Table salt is a combination of two electrolytes sodium and chloride. We all know that calcium is important for bone formation but it also aids in muscle contraction, blood clotting, and transmission of nerve impulses. Magnesium helps the body use glucose, assists in protein and fat production and is a catalyst for ATP production.Sodium is involved in nerve signal transmission and muscle contraction. Sodiums most important function is to maintain optimum fluid levels in body tissues especially fluids inside and outside each cell.(Whitney & Rolfes 2002).

Electrolytes with the help of the kidneys helps regulate fluid levels. Sodium tends to promote water absorption. Low sodium levels can be just as risky as levels that are to high and electrolyte imbalances can cause serious health risks. High blood pressure is a major risk factor linked to sodium.

The most popular consensus is that everyone should limit salt is not necessarily the case. People with existing hypertension are advised to aim for a low salt diet. However salt effects people very differently. ” A person with normal kidneys excretes excess sodium and can handle wide variations” says Michael Alderman,MD of Albert Einstein Collage of Medicine. “However just restricting salt in a salt sensitive person can control blood pressure”. Lifestyle factors should be addressed such as alcohol consumption, eating a plant based diet and getting enough exercise. A more nutritious diet overall is the best approach, eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and not just opting for a lower salt version of processed food.

Whether people with normal blood pressure, especially if they are regular exercisers, should aim for  a lower salt diet is unclear states Dr. Alderman. “To little salt can be a real hazard”. Dr. Alderman believes universally lower salt in the food supply is a rash and potentially risky approach ,low salt intake can lead to a decrease in insulin sensitivity. As well as orthostatic hypotension and dizziness.

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