Salt: (also common salt) [mass noun] A white crystalline substance which gives seawater its characteristic taste and is used for seasoning or preserving food.
Table salt – NaCl
A mineral that is so valuable to humankind that we used to pay people with it (hence your salary if you are lucky enough to be paid one).A mineral essential to the operation of the human body. It helps regulate cell size, manage electrical activity especially in the nervous system, which is fundamental to the operation of the endocrine system (hormone production). It keeps fluids in balance both in the blood and the interstitial fluid around the cells. By managing the fluid levels it helps to manage core body temperature, reducing the risk of heat stroke. It’s role in the nervous system could well be crucial to understanding migrane, fibromyalgia, neuropathy and hypersensitivity to pain.
If your salt levels are too low, you are likely to experience orthostatic hypotension when moving from sitting to standing, making you feel dizzy or faint. Low salt levels reduce your tolerance of exercise, especially in the heat.
There is no evidence that reducing salt intake reduces your risk of hypotension (1). It DOES have a role in managing blood pressure but eating salt does not raise blood pressure. Sadly, research that used very small sample sizes, coupled with overzealous interpretation and a disregard of the fundamental need for salt in the body, lead to the adoption of the salt reduction programmes with which we have all become familar.
Unfortunately the law of unintended consequences kicked in and the desired result was far from achievable by the means proposed. (2)
Taking out of food one of the key minerals needed by the body for its effective operation does nothing to alter that biological need. If your body needs something, it usually has a mechanism to prompt you to seek out the required foodstuff to satisfy that need/replenish supplies. But that possible source of satisfaction has had it’s salt content reduced (because the official bodies said the manufacturers should). The population, having been told to reduce their intake, were presented with highly-processed products plastered with the comforting labels highlighting their low salt credentials.
Highly processed foods also contain high levels of added sugar and industrial oils/fats.
So, are we looking at the true culprit? Or are we punishing the wrong target?
- “The Salt Fix” Dr James di Nicolantonio Harmony Books 2017
- The wrong white crystals: not salt but sugar as aetiological in hypertension and cardiometabolic disease