What if I told you that you should be adding salt, not reducing it? Or that the daily sodium recommendations like that of the American Heart Association (AHA) are actually dangerously low?
Just like plants can grow anywhere with water, CO2 and sunlight, humans can survive anywhere where water and salt are present. Until the discovery of salt mines and soy, humans were tethered to dwellings near salt springs or the sea – for very good reason. Sodium regulates every fluid in our bodies and plays a critical role in our nervous systems as well. Salt is so valuable that throughout history scholars like Plato renowned salt as “especially near to the Gods,” and the term “salary” actually comes from the Latin word “salarium” (“sal” being salt) – a word that dates back to the early Roman salt trade when soldiers earned “salt money” in exchange for their services.
We perish without salt. Here are 7 reasons you may want to increase your sodium intake.
1. Salt Reduces Our Risk of Disease:
The AHA recommends 1.5 grams of sodium per day, but studies show that nowhere in the world are humans consuming that negligible amount. For over two centuries, the range has naturally remained the same, 1.5-3 teaspoons per day(or 4 grams), reducing our risk of disease.
2. Data Doesn’t Support Salt Reduction Theories:
AHA’s studies are short term and don’t consider the harmful effects of a long-term low sodium diet. American journalist and writer, Gary Taubes explained over two decades ago, “the data supporting universal salt reduction have never been compelling, nor has it ever been demonstrated that such a program would not have unforeseen negative side effects.”
3. Consuming Too Little Sodium Poses Risks:
Consuming too little sodium is far more dangerous than consuming too much. Figure 1 shows that consuming less than 2 grams of sodium/day is just as bad as eating over 10 grams a day! Both equally increase the risk of stroke, heart attack and death. Other studies clarify that those with hypertension dohave an increased risk at 7 grams of sodium a day, but those without hypertension don’t. But BOTH groups have increased risk when sodium consumption is less than 2 grams.
4. Reducing Sodium Doesn’t Treat The Root Cause Of Heart Disease:
The theory is:
lower sodium = lower blood pressure = lower heart disease with zero other consequences
Biochemist and health expert, Robb Wolf explains that lowering sodium “may lower blood pressure a couple ticks here and there” but doesn’t fix the problem. Most patients are hyperinsulinemic and they’re trying to treat this by lowering sodium (which won’t work, see #5). In 1988 the Intersalt Study, designed to explain discrepancies in salt data, failed to show any linear relationship between salt intake and blood pressure. Since then, several other studies have concluded the same.
5. Low Salt Diets Increase Hormones And Lipids In The Blood:
This includes renin, cholesterol and triglycerides. Furthermore a Harvard study connected low salt diets to the immediate onset ofinsulin resistance which is the worst thing for those with hyperinsulinemia.Knowing this, it makes sense that people with Type II Diabetes are more likely to die prematurely on a low salt diet.
6. A Low Carb Diet Requires More Sodium Intake:
If you’re following a ketogenic or low carb diet, you need even more sodium (4-7 grams per day) as it’s flushed out more readily. Was the paleo man salting his food with 7 grams of salt though? Wolf explains that the way we process animals in the west removes a huge amount of sodium from meat. If the animal wasn’t bled out, it would have 4 grams of sodium per kilogram of muscle meat. Historically, humans utilize blood for consumption more than we do today leading to a higher intake of sodium.
7. Salt May Keep Your Bones Strong As You Age:
Wolf explains that “bones actually contain a lot of sodium,” so if you’re low on sodium your body will actually start pulling sodium from your bones and take calcium with it! This may explain why elderly people with hyponatremia often have more bone fractures and breaks.
To summarize, lowering sodium was once prescribed to prevent heart disease, but recent research over the last few decades has been refuting low-sodium health claims. We need sodium and adequate amounts of quality, unprocessed salt to improve hydration, sleep, recovery and performance.