Why is too much salt bad for you?
Why salt is good for your heart
Been holding back on your salt intake? We're not giving you carte blanche with the shaker, but an extra sprinkle here or there won't tamper with your ticker. New science from Boston University School of Medicine found high-salt diets have zero increase on blood pressure, adding to mounted evidence that our guidelines are due for a tweak. Read to find out why the white stuff's not the nutritional gremlin it's been mooted as.
The Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University has found that, contrary to popular thought, low-salt diets may not be beneficial and may actually increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Perhaps the savoury crystal really is whiter than white?
Unless you’re unfortunate enough to be Britain’s generic gentleman (81.9kg on a 175cm frame, with a GP-bothering BMI of 26.2), the 6g per day guidelines just don’t apply. They’re for the guy whose arteries pack the pressure of a fireman’s hose. Active males adopting a similar approach are risking harm to everything from their PBs to their life expectancy.
(Related: why salt might be good for your muscles)
The nutritional dogma stating that too much salt means a one-way ticket to coronary lock-up is based on old science and lazy assumption. The reasoning goes that oversalting your blood draws in water, increasing the pressure and the strain on your heart and arteries. But even if you’re already hypertensive, it seems that logic is not quite as solid as five decades of health guidelines might imply.
First, some chemistry. Salt is a combo of two things: sodium and chloride. Put bluntly, a lack of the former is lethal, because fluids can’t move around your body. Your nerves don’t fire properly. Your muscles won’t contract. The importance of the latter has only recently been discovered: a group of Scottish scientists warn that a lack of chloride can pose a far more deadly cardiovascular danger.
If you find that unsavoury, consider this: recent research has discovered thata low-salt dietcould actually increase your risk of heart disease, heart attacks and high BP.
Though that study was published in as esteemed an organ asThe Journal of the American Medical Association, doctors were quick to criticise its methodology as it only tracked relatively young Europeans who didn’t already have high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease – does that sound like anyone you know?
The fact is we’ve been blaming our bursting veins on the wrong white powder. According to an analysis in the journalOpen Heart, it’s added sugar that is the culprit behind the fact that cardiovascular disease remains our biggest killer.
(Related: can you really lose weight with more sugar?)
It’s easy to understand why sodium’s been branded the bad guy, though. Almost three-quarters of our daily intake comes from processed food, according to the Food Standards Agency, meals that are also laden with those known blood-pressure spikers, sugar and trans fats.
So, rather than worrying about ducking your RDAs, perhaps it’s wiser just to focus on swapping the processed junk for cooked-from-scratch meals that will keep your blood pressure where it should be. And if you need to coat that steak in sea salt and give your kale an extra couple of cranks of the grinder to make it palatable, then you can take the disapproving looks of your dining partners with a big pinch of skepticism.
Deals with the devil
Sauce it up
If your sweat stings your eyes or makes your skin feel gritty, you’re a ‘salty sweater’. Being extra generous with the soy will help you stay properly hydrated.
Drink it in
Supplement your post- workout drink with Elete add-in (£8.80 amazon.co.uk), for its dose of magnesium and potassium, alongside the sodium chloride.
The Cochrane Review of 167 studies found that people eating less than 2.5g of salt a day were five times as likely to die as those consuming 6g.
Video: 5 Natural Salt Substitutes | WebMD
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