Apr 17, 2013

Salt Myth Debunked

There continues a myth that originated in the 1940s when a professor used salt-reduction to treat people with high blood pressure. Science has since found out that there is no reason for a person with normal blood pressure to restrict salt intake.

Decades of scientific research have failed to prove any benefits of a low-salt diet, and in fact tend to show the opposite. Studies have also failed to prove salt's connection to heart disease.

Salt is essential for life. Natural salt is important to many biological processes, including:
Being a major component of your blood plasma, lymphatic fluid, extracellular fluid, and even amniotic fluid;  Carrying nutrients into and out of your cells;  Increasing the glial cells in your brain, which are responsible for creative thinking and long-term planning; and  helping your brain communicate with your muscles, so that you can move on demand via sodium-potassium ion exchange.

A Scottish Heart Health Study, was launched in 1984 by epidemiologist Hugh Tunstall-Pedoe and colleagues at the Ninewells Hospital and Medical School in Dundee, Scotland. The researchers used questionnaires, physical exams, and 24-hour urine samples to establish the risk factors for cardiovascular disease in 7300 Scottish men. This was an order of magnitude larger than any intrapopulation study ever done with 24-hour urine samples. The BMJ published the results in 1988: Potassium, which is in fruits and vegetables, seemed to have a beneficial effect on blood pressure. Sodium had no effect.

A review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. University of Copenhagen researchers analyzed 114 randomized trials of sodium reduction, concluding that the benefit for hypertensives was significantly smaller than could be achieved by anti-hypertensive drugs, and that a "measurable" benefit in individuals with normal blood pressure of even a single millimeter of mercury could only be achieved with an "extreme" reduction in salt intake.

Recent studies, including those cited by Harvard University at St. George’s Medical School in London, have shown that potassium rich foods are an essential defense in helping to relieve high blood pressure. Potassium is an essential mineral that enables the body to maintain a healthy fluid and electrolyte balance, while also promoting optimal nerve and muscle functions.

If a person has high blood pressure he or she may become salt-sensitive. Hypertension is actually promoted more by excess fructose than excess salt. This can be relieved by reducing salt intake or increasing potassium intake, because it is the balance of the two that is important. Eating more potassium is probably more important than reducing salt.

Potassium is found in orange colored fruits and vegetables, including pumpkins, carrots, and apricots. Tomatoes and bananas are another source of high potassium. It is also found in artichokes, avocados, broccoli, dark chocolate, spinach, potatoes, yogurt, fish, and and a variety of beans.