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The Salt Debate: Is Salt Bad for You?

Updated on January 29, 2014

Rock Salts

Does salt cause high blood pressure?
Does salt cause high blood pressure?

For as long as I can remember I’ve been careful about the amount of salt that I eat and that I give my family, because it causes high blood pressure and is bad for our health, as high blood pressure can lead to cardiovascular problems and strokes, or at least that is what I thought.

A recent article that I discovered while researching another topic has thrown this long held belief up in the air. I think that I must have been going around with my eyes shut as I didn’t realise that there was any controversy. I really believed that salt was the bad guy and that it had been proven beyond any reasonable doubt.

European Study shows that High Salt Consumption is not Dangerous

The article I found provided details of a very recent European study that has recently been reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association. The study is titled Fatal and Nonfatal Outcomes, Incidence of Hypertension and Blood Pressure Changes in Relation to Urinary Sodium Excretion and it was established to determine whether moderation of salt intake might reduce cardiovascular events and if 24 hour urinary sodium excretion predicts blood pressure and health outcomes.

The study followed over 3,500 participants for almost 8 years and found that systolic blood pressure but not diastolic pressure changes over time in line with increased or decreased sodium excretion but that any increase in systolic pressure did not translate into a higher risk of hyper tension or cardio vascular problems. More worryingly for me, the study also found that lower sodium excretion was associated with a higher rate of death from cardiovascular disease.

Smoked Hawaiian Sea Salt

Does salt cause cardiovascular disease?
Does salt cause cardiovascular disease?

The (Political) Science of Salt

I then decided that I needed to know much more and this led me to this article written by Gary Taubes that was published in the Science magazine in August 1998. In the article Taubes points out that thirty years of the controversy of blood pressure benefits from salt reduction have shown how the demands of science have clashed with the public health policy. Whilst early research and studies appeared to support the value of salt reduction to the current recommended daily limit of 6 grams as the studies have improved, the apparent health benefits have diminished, while the debate has grown more and more heated.

I did more research and frankly just got more and more confused as for every article that I found supporting cutting back on salt I could found another giving the opposite view point. So I then thought that I need to find out some more about salt.

Salt Ponds in Sicily

Does salt cause strokes?
Does salt cause strokes?

So what did I find out?

  • Salt is a natural chemical which is vital to our body
  • We secret salt in our perspiration and tears
  • Salt is important in the regulation of fluids in our bodies
  • If we eat more salt that we need our bodies can dispose of it
  • If we eat less than our bodies need our kidneys conserve it
  • Sodium is just one of the chemicals that makes up our electrolyte balance
  • The other chemicals are potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, hydrogen phosphate and hydrogen carbonate
  • Our muscles and neurons are activated by electrolyte activity
  • A severe imbalance of electrolytes may lead to cardiac and neurological complication

Rock Salt

Is salt bad for me?
Is salt bad for me?

So what do I now think

To be honest I’m not sure, but I think that I will not worry quite so much about the level of salt I add to food, because as a family we eat a healthy diet that is not high in processed foods and we all have normal blood pressure.

I’m certainly going to be taking any future health advice with a pinch of salt!


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    • Amber Allen profile image

      Amber Allen 5 years ago

      Hi Steph

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and let me know that you enjoyed my article.


    • profile image

      steph 5 years ago

      This was a very interesting article, also very educational!!!!!

    • Amber Allen profile image

      Amber Allen 6 years ago

      Hi hross12

      Thank you for your helpful comment.

      The whole thing is not helped by the confusion between sodium and salt. Table salt only contains 40% sodium.


    • hross12 profile image

      hross12 6 years ago from Boston, MA

      Most people when they hear salt is bad for you, they only think of additional table salt added to our meals. What most do not know is the danger in high sodium foods do not come from table salt, but is added when food is processed to preserve it. 75% of consumed sodium comes from processed foods, while only 5-10% from table salt. The FDA recommends no more than 2,300mg sodium/day, and the average American consumes more than 3,436mg/day.

    • carcro profile image

      Paul Cronin 6 years ago from Winnipeg

      Very interesting article on salt use. I have always been led to believe salt is real bad for you, sure goes to show that it depends what you read and listen to. Thanks for sharing this info.

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

      Barbara Anne Helberg 6 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @Amber Allen...Interesting information on the salt question. Nice job!

    • Alladream74 profile image

      Victor Mavedzenge 6 years ago from Oakland, California

      Well balanced and written article.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

      I think salt in moderation is just fine. I prefer Sea Salt. Your article is excellent. Thank you for the good read! :)

    • Amber Allen profile image

      Amber Allen 6 years ago

      You're welcome!


    • tchenruiz profile image

      tchenruiz 6 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      Thanks for the research/article. You just confirmed my belief - everything in moderation!

    • Amber Allen profile image

      Amber Allen 6 years ago

      Hi Pamela

      Thanks for dropping by and reading and commenting on my hub. Eggs are another food where there is conflicting advice on how many you can eat.


    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

      This is interesting and it reminds me of how they have gone back and forth with coffee not being good for you, drink decaf, then they changed and coffee is okay as long as you don't drink it all day. I know so many foods have salt that you don't suspect until you read a label but we don't eat much processed food either. I personally cut back on salt when I got hypertension but I really don't know if it matters. Rated up and useful.