Salt : The “White Death” Or The Essence Of Life?

Nov 16, 2011 No Comments by

For many years doctors tell us that salt is very harmful to health. But there is a serious problem: so far there is no conclusive evidence that the exclusion of salt from the diet will reduce the number of strokes or heart disease and prolong people’s lives. Moreover, some experts argue that the rejection of salt can cause more harm than good.

The fight with the salt already underway at the state level. For example, the Department of Health in the United States in 2008 established a national project to reduce salt intake. For this project, joined by more than 45 cities, states and influential national and international health organizations, including the American Heart Association, American Medical Association and International League of hypertension. In the UK and Finland to take serious measures to restrict salt: food producers were obliged to write not only about the salt content in foods, but also to indicate its recommended amount. A recent order sharply limiting the amount of salt in foods for school meals. Yes, it is widely known that excessive intake of sodium chloride (ie, ordinary table salt) causes hypertension, heart attacks and strokes. And the purpose of such large-scale projects – to prevent these diseases by reducing the salt content in food.

Plans for ambitious, if not a contradiction: even in the medical community there is no unanimity on this point.

One important aspect of hypertension prevention and management that has raised questions among scientists and in the media is the effect of sodium consumption on blood pressure. Sodium chloride, or table salt, increases average levels of blood pressure. Some individuals have greater blood pressure responses to salt than others. For example, many mineral water is a good deal of sodium, but even long-term use of mineral water does not increase blood pressure.

But at the same time, modern science has not yet absolute proof that healthy people will benefit from the hard limit of sodium in the diet. But some experts argue that food without salt may even harm your health. In their view, the reduction of salt in food to a minimum can lead to unintended consequences, and various clinical studies conducted so far do not directly relate to the amount of salt intake with cardiovascular disease.

There are very practical reasons: salt – seasoning cheap and proved a natural preservative. Food companies have their own reasons and benefits for the use of salt, especially in the “LPs” products. If they have to look for alternatives, it is not clear what impact this will have on our health. Suffice it to recall sweeteners, many of which – and this is proven scientific research – are toxic and dangerous to the kidneys and liver.

The history of the rise and fall of salt

People use salt in food for at least the past 10 000 years – ever since man first salted a piece of meat. Around 5000 years ago the Chinese discovered that salty food is stored for longer – now for the long and cold winter, people had food reserves. Over time, salt was worth, the subject of trade. Due to the salt built cities such as Venice and Oslo, for her even wage a war. The Romans salted vegetables and greens, so came the word salad («salad”), and even the English salary («wages”) comes from the word salt.

Salt consumption peaked in the late XIX century, yet it was the main method of preserving food. And began to decline with the spread of refrigerators in the early XX century. However, by mid-century, widespread use of convenience foods, displacing from our menu freshly prepared foods, has led to the fact that salt intake has increased again.

Today we have 80% of the daily intake of salt from the salt shaker is not, and of industrial products, convenience foods and canned goods. And the Europeans, on average, for example, use about 8 to 15 grams of salt per day (rate recommended by the WHO, is from 4 to 5 grams per day).

Nearly a century ago in the study of patients with hypertension, French doctors first discovered that if patients per day consumed more than 10 grams of salt, their blood pressure rises sharply, as if the amount of salt is decreased, the pressure and came back to normal. Over time, the hypothesis on the relationship of excessive salt intake and high blood pressure has been confirmed: the excessive intake of salt leads to the fact that the body retained fluid – to maintain water and salt balance. The more water in the body – the greater the amount of blood and more blood – the higher the pressure in the vessels. This explains the relationship between the amount of salt, which draws a man and his development of hypertension. Also has long been established that high blood pressure increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Large amounts of blood circulating through the vessels, stretch and weaken their walls, which makes blood vessels vulnerable to injury. This increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and death.

It is this relationship – of salt intake to hypertension, and then from hypertension to strokes and heart attacks – the main reason for declaring war against salt.

Fickle effect of sodium

For people with high blood pressure (which is about one-third of the adult population of our country) decrease in the amount of salt to 4-5 grams per day can indeed lead to a decrease in pressure, although only slightly, by 5 points for systolic and 3-4 – diastolic (see below – “Blood pressure in the figures.”) For example, the pressure after the “salt-free” week, down from 145/90 to 140/87 mm Hg – of course, such a change is not enough to bring blood pressure back to normal.

And for people with normal blood pressure trying to reduce sodium intake heroic exception of salt from the diet will reduce the pressure by an average of some 1-2 points. Tonometer may not even fix a tiny change. Studies show that over time periods out of salt and did not affect changes in blood pressure. Presumably this is because the body adapts to low levels of salt. It turns out that the exclusion of salt from the diet in the long term effect on blood pressure levels even lower than some simple changes you can make a normal life. Eat three times a day, whole-grain products – and your systolic blood pressure decreased by 6 points. Give up a sweet drink – systolic decrease of 1.8 points and diastolic pressure – by 1.1. Throw three extra pounds – and the pressure decreases, respectively, 1.4 and 1.1 points.

In addition, only about 50% of all hypertensive patients respond to salt. This means that the blood pressure they have significantly altered by increasing or decreasing salt intake. Such salt sensitivity is apparently hereditary. This feature is more pronounced among overweight people and is more common in old age.

What can replace the salt?

Food companies and food service businesses are added to foods and ready meals more salt than recommended by doctors because it helps them to solve several problems at once. First of all, improves the taste: heat treatment required to kill bacteria in fresh food, often neutralizes and the taste of the product. Salt is also here an indispensable catalyst for their taste. In addition, the salt hydrates products improves the texture and prevent new bacteria breeding rotates. In the bakery due to salt dough rises and becomes elastic, in addition, allows the finished bread, salt air, and hold not to lose shape.

Some experts on hypertension concerned about the possibility that the manufacturer of the finished food, when they will be obliged to reduce the amount of salt, will replace the salt flavor enhancers – sodium glutamate or fat – or even invent new kinds of substitutes to maintain taste and texture of food. Keeping in mind, in which secret manufacturing companies hold recipes and formulas of their products is likely to be difficult or even impossible to identify a new ingredient, much less its impact on our health.

Recommendations for the minimum permissible level of salt ranging from 0.5 to 5 grams per day. But some experts – physicians and cardiologists – believe that exclude salt from the diet or to adopt the lower limit of the recommended standards makes no sense. For example, a Danish researcher Neylz Grodal, MD, asserts that there is no evidence that there is a relationship between low levels of salt intake and life expectancy. Moreover, he finds it impossible to anybody at all able to meet the new recommendation, given that you have reached the allowable limit, already eating a cupcake store bought (about 0.5 g of salt) or a cup of chicken soup with noodles in a cafe (near 2 g of salt). Dinner in a cheap restaurant can increase the level of sodium in a few days: salad and grilled chicken will cost you 2.7 grams, and pasta with seafood – 3.2, the finished salad dressings may contain one portion of 1 g salt: ketchup – 0.8 g in 1 tablespoon of the sauce for seafood – 1 g in 1 tbsp. l., mayonnaise – 1.5 grams per half-glass.

Opponents say the salt, if we exclude the salt from the diet, it would be healthier and live longer. However, recent studies in sodium needs (how much salt is actually needed by the body) refutes this assertion. The researchers hypothesized that the evolution was physiologically fixed level of need for salt, which is sufficient to operate the various systems of the human body.

Can I live without salt?

The most persuasive argument against the strict limits of sodium in the diet, say the defenders of salt, is that still has never been a full-fledged clinical trials that show how a certain amount of sodium intake affects the risk of stroke, heart attack or death. Yes, we have shown that lowering blood pressure reduces the risk of CVD. But we have no idea, will  a significant reduction in salt intake save our hearts. It’s the same with the opposite statement: it is not clear whether the abuse of salt to heart attacks and strokes.

By the way, the lack of salt in the diet is not so indifferent to our body: it provokes thirst, fatigue and muscle cramps of feet and calves – also a sign of lack of salt (along with lack of magnesium, calcium and vitamins E, A). Even symptoms such as weakness, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, talking about a small deficit of salt.

It is true that salt salt strife: valuable micronutrients to the body is rich in marine and rock salt, mined in environmentally clean regions. A normal sodium (peeled) salt that we use every day, does not contain trace elements. This is just a pure sodium chloride. The modern technology of cleaning salt deprives it of valuable health and life, iodine, magnesium, lithium, selenium, zinc, etc. In countries where the food with salt, obtained in the traditional way – by evaporation of sea water in the sun (for example, in Spain, Venezuela, Japan), very rare diseases such as cancer of the lymphatic system, heart attacks, premature atherosclerosis and senile dementia. As you know, the people, eating fresh seafood and use sea salt as a seasoning, have better health, and life expectancy is higher.

So the “correct” salt in moderation our bodies need. But there are diseases in which salt intake is recommended to minimize or even completely eliminate – this is some kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity and cancer.

The oldest medicine

The Roman scholar Pliny the Elder proclaimed that the world has two overriding things – the sun and salt, which for many centuries healers used as a medicine. And modern scholars argue that the rejection of salt nebezobiden health: it is obvious that reducing sodium intake triggers a lot of different processes – both good and bad. For example, it was found that low sodium leads to increased levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. And this is a serious risk of atherosclerosis.

And a few more arguments in favor of salt:

  • Salt – a vital element for people suffering from type I diabetes. It helps to balance blood sugar levels, thus reducing the need for insulin.
  • Salt has antidepressant properties. That’s what British scientists explain the predilection of most people to excessive use of salt in food and cravings for salty snacks – chips, nuts, straw, etc.
  • Salt is essential to sustain the levels of serotonin and melatonin (hormone of happiness and pleasure) in the brain. When the water cleanses the body of toxic waste, salt helps to keep the necessary amount of fluid in the tissues. And to avoid the loss of essential amino acids such as tryptophan and tyrosine. And if there is enough moisture in the intercellular space of these amino acids are fully utilized for the production of serotonin and melatonin.
  • Table salt is needed to regulate the acidity in the intracellular environment, which is especially important for brain cells. That is why salt-free diet and the use of diuretics, washed salt and minerals from the body, increase the risk of Alzheimer‘s disease.
  • Salt is absolutely vital for good digestion. But – most importantly – we must remember that medicine or poison salt makes the number!

Minimizing sodium intake, you’re running a series of processes in the body. How useful, and not so …

Blood pressure in the figures

Systolic pressure – the top number in blood pressure parameter that indicates the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts and pushes blood into the vessels.

Diastolic pressure – the lower figure shows the minimum pressure in the arteries between heart beats. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg. Art.) Measure it simply, if you use a digital tonometer (a recent study, however, show that old-fashioned tonometers more accurate). But what is meant by performance:

  • 120-80 and below – Normal blood pressure
  • 139-89/130-139/80-89 – prehypertension
  • 159-99/140-159/90-99 – The first stage of hypertension (mild to medium)
  • 160 + / 100 + and above – The second stage of hypertension (moderate to severe)

Strategy for recovery

There are many simple ways to prevent high blood pressure, while it is not necessary to focus on the consumption of salt.
  • If your blood pressure is normal, there is no need to sit on a salt-free diet. Waiver of salt does not give tangible effect. But physical activity, starting with a morning workout, the daily walks to the more tangible loads, such as swimming and fitness activities – is the best prevention of cardiovascular disease and hypertension. In addition, it is necessary to control cholesterol levels, and to observe basic rules of healthy eating: eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats and fish, as well as useful vegetable oils such as refined oil, olive, sunflower, corn, etc., and necessarily low-fat dairy products.
  • If you have borderline or high blood pressure (see “Blood pressure in Figures”), check with your doctor. He tells you what changes in lifestyle, including reducing the amount of salt will help to bring it back to normal. Start with the rejection of canned and processed foods, before you start taking medicine. Directly or indirectly on blood pressure is influenced by such factors as high cholesterol, smoking, obesity and stress, as well as a lack of potassium (which are the source of fruits and vegetables), alcohol abuse, lack of physical activity. All these risk factors contributing to the development of hypertension. In addition, it is important to monitor blood pressure and pulse – with advanced blood pressure monitors, which are now sold everywhere, it’s easy to do yourself.

Health And Nutrition
No Responses to “Salt : The “White Death” Or The Essence Of Life?”

Leave a Reply