Category Archives: High Salt Diets

When it comes to salt, too little may be just as bad as too much

iStock_000014891232SmallWe know that high levels of sodium in our food supply are a serious problem. As also know that most of the sodium we consume daily isn’t coming from the salt shakers on our kitchen tables. Instead sodium resides in the myriad of processed foods residing on our grocery store shelves. High salt intake is in the news often with reports of a variety of health problems that can result from a high-sodium diet. But now, it appears that too little daily sodium might be bad for us too.

If the body takes in too much salt, there is a higher risk of hypertension, kidney problems, heart failure, stroke, and heart attacks. In a study focused on the effects of salt on blood pressure, nutritionists found out that those with moderate salt intake did not benefit from lessening their salt consumption as much as those who have high salt intake did.

In another study that focused on heart disease and death, researchers concluded that those with extremely low salt diets are not necessarily healthier. In fact, they said that extremely low salt intake can lead to health hazards.

A third study, however, said that there is a connection between less salt intake and better health.

All three studies were published on the August 14 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), it is recommended that a person consume less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day, TIME reports. To have an idea, a teaspoon of salt has about 2,300 mg of sodium.

One of the things that all three studies have in common is that they all confirm that too much salt is indeed bad for the body.

New York Daily News reports that the average daily consumption of salt worldwide is about 7.5 to 15.0 grams, which translates to three to six grams of sodium. The number is well above the limit of 1.5 to 2.4 grams of sodium that is recommended by different organizations.

Dr. Andrew Mente of the McMaster University in Ontario and the chief author of the blood pressure study said:

“If people are eating a very high level of sodium and they reduce their intake, you get a large reduction in blood pressure. But if you’re eating moderate level of sodium—about what most North Americans eat—and you reduce it to a lower level, you’re not really getting much in return as far as blood pressure reduction is concerned.”

With the debate on salt still ongoing, one thing is for sure. The average salt intake worldwide is more than the recommended amount, and it should be changed. Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Politcy at Tufts University said:

“The big picture is that high sodium is bad and should be reversed, and there’s just some controversy over how low you should go. Whether it should be 2 grams or 1.5 grams or 2.5 grams per day, that’s all theory. Right now it’s close to 4 grams per day. Let’s get it down below 3, and the we can argue how low it should go. But right now it’s clearly way too high.” understands that the debate over the “perfect” amount of sodium we should consume daily may not yet be agreed upon by the experts. And while we understand the importance of that debate – especially in light of these new studies – we strongly believe and advocate for the preparation of fresh, whole foods at home in our own kitchens. The less we rely on processed products, the easier it will be for all of us to achieve a perfect balance of sodium in our daily diets.

Consuming too much salt may be a trigger for autoimmune diseases, like Multiple Sclerosis and Type 1 Diabetes is aware that the rates of autoimmune diseases have been on the rise for quite some time. Instances of diseases like Multiple Sclerosis have increased in the population with little explanation as to why. While it’s understood that people can be genetically predisposed to these diseases, the rates of autoimmune disease have risen fairly quickly.

Now, new research suggests that salt consumption may be an underlying reason for the rapid increases. A new report published in the journal Nature has reported that a high-salt diet may increase levels of a specific immune cell that is linked with autoimmune diseases. These cells are linked with inflammation. The report was culled from three different studies from Harvard and Yale universities. It was noted that mice that had been genetically engineered to develop Multiple Sclerosis got much worse when they were fed a diet comparable to a high-salt Western diet when compared with mice who were fed a diet more moderate in salt.

The results suggest that salt intake may play a role in the triggering of autoimmune diseases in individuals who are already genetically predisposed. It appears that the development of diseases like MS may not just be about genetics after all, but rather a combination of genetics and environmental factors. While the paper links salt and MS, the researchers can’t say how much salt makes the difference.

One of the studies used in the report involved the cell function of 100 healthy individuals. It was noted that when people in the study ate fast food more than once per week, there was a significant increase in levels of destructive inflammatory cells. These cells respond to injury from foreign invaders – but in individuals with autoimmune diseases, the cells actually attack healthy tissue. The autoimmune cell known as a T helper 17 or a Th17 seems to be the cell affected by the high salt diet. The Th17 cells can promote inflammation that’s key to defending against pathogens. But they are also linked to autoimmune diseases.

Researchers then moved to studying the genetically engineered mice. All of the mice involved would develop MS. Based on the observations of the individuals in the previous study, the mice were divided into two groups. One group which had been fed the high salt diet experienced the production of an increased amount of Th17 cells. These were the mice that developed a more severe form of Multiple Sclerosis. The mice that were fed a regular diet experienced less severe disease.

The researchers are anxious for these findings to be studied in the human population. There is already a study that’s been approved that will test the effects of lowering the dietary salt levels of people with MS to see if it might improve symptoms of the disease. While it may be years before the link between salt intake and autoimmune disease can be confirmed, the researchers think that it may be advisable for MS patients to go ahead and lower their daily sodium levels. is always encouraged when science finds implications of links between our diets and our health. The benefits of making small dietary changes can be enormous. The idea of treating chronic, debilitating disease through diet can help us all live longer, healthier lives and may help alleviate the need for powerful medications that often cause physically and emotionally stressful side effects. We look forward to future studies on this important subject.

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