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Salt is Bad For You… No It’s Not!

Salt is Bad For You… No It’s Not!

If you are paying attention, then you have probably noticed a trend of sorts – particularly about contradictory medical findings. Take virtually any substance that can be consumed or ingested (except maybe tobacco and narcotics) and you will find evidence, in the form of published medical reports, in favor of moderate consumption as well as evidence that will scare you away from taking another bite. I have seen such reports on everything from conventionally grown produce to chocolate. So if you are paying attention, it is (to say the least) somewhat confusing and confounding to know what, and how much of it, to put in your mouth.

Salt, as we have all been told, is horrendously bad for you, especially in large amounts. The habitual consumption of salty foods has been linked to heart disease and hypertension, along with higher instances of strokes and heart attacks. For some, even a modest amount of salt in their diet can spell years of complications and health risks. A few years back an article in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated (using previous studies’ numbers) that the U.S. could prevent 44,000 deaths annually if Americans reduced their salt intake by three grams per day. The common recommendation among at risk populations (which is about half of the American population) was 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day, or a little more than half a teaspoon of salt (2,300 mg is what is recommended for the other half of the population).

But within the last three to five years there has been a mounting case that (surprise!) greatly differs, or contradicts, these findings and recommendations. A new expert committee, commissioned by the Institute of Medicine at the behest of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said there was no rationale for anyone to aim for sodium levels below 2,300 milligrams a day (this includes at-risk populations) and in some instances some people may be at risk for consuming too little sodium. Brian Strom, a dean and professor of public health at the University of Pennsylvania, recently told NPR that the report revealed, “The net conclusion is that people who are eating too much sodium should lower their sodium, but it is possible that if you lower it too much you may do harm.” This is in reference to an Italian study cited in the by the commission where patients with congestive heart failure actually did worse on low sodium diets.

To be sure, The Heart Association is staying firm on their long-held position that sodium intake should be greatly regulated and maintained at the advised levels. But it is difficult to know who or what to believe. I figure if you are part of the “at risk” population you would probably be advised to keep away from high-sodium products and keep a close watch on your general sodium intake. What are your views of such findings and the nature of contradictory reports? Are you influenced one way or another?

Related:
47 Smart Uses for Salt
The Truth about Salt

Read more: Blogs, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Following Food, Food, General Health, Health, Heart & Vascular Disease, High Blood Pressure, , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

98 comments

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1:20AM PST on Dec 15, 2013

Sorry!
This made me even more confused than before,

7:16AM PDT on Sep 9, 2013

It's simple people, just like with anything else in your body, it should be whole and unrefined. Whole mineral salt that has not been refined using a chemical process has the opposite effects of refined table salt. It will bring your body into balance and nourish your body with its many minerals. Himalayan salt and Celtic sea salt are the best. If it has color to it it means it has not been refined, if it is white it is poison.

1:19PM PDT on May 30, 2013

More confusion .... when in doubt, use moderation...

2:55AM PDT on May 30, 2013

Thanks

9:55PM PDT on May 27, 2013

First they say it is and then they say it isn't...who knows?

4:28PM PDT on May 27, 2013

I have heard that sea salt is very good for you, but processed "regular" salt is not.

9:40PM PDT on May 21, 2013

Until somebody makes up my mind whether salt, coffee, etc. are good or bad, guess I'll just use moderation as a guide.

9:17AM PDT on May 20, 2013

I can't eat bland food. I use a lot of salt an pepper. I know there are spices which don't contain salt, to help with flavor, but I love salt. I know I should cut down a little though.

10:50PM PDT on May 19, 2013

use salt in moderation

10:20PM PDT on May 19, 2013

@ Don S: I never mean to scare anyone so apologize for that. However, because of thyroid problems in my paternal grandfather's descendants, it's a subject that's been in my face for a long time so common sense for me is knowledge to keep from repeating history. Here's the skinny on it:
Bromide, a halide, is an endocrine disruptor and competes for the same receptors that are used in the thyroid gland (among other places) to capture iodine. This will inhibit thyroid hormone production resulting in a low thyroid state. Bromide is a pesticide used mainly on strawberries, found predominantly in the California areas. Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) is added to citrus drinks (think Mountain Dew) to help suspend the flavoring in the liquid. Potassium Bromate is a dough conditioner found in commercial bakery products and some flours. Those are just a few examples. http://www.naturalthyroidchoices.com/Bromide.html I learned about the iodine patch from another source while doing my research.

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