Could Cutting Salt Do More Harm Than Good?


For many years we have been told by health professionals, researchers, different organizations and even our mothers that eating too much salt with our food can be bad for our health in many different ways. But recent studies have shown this might not be completely true, and cutting down too much on the sodium we add to our daily diet can actually be worse for us than not cutting back at all.

Before getting into the subject it should be said that, as per the World Health Organization (WHO), a healthy adult should consume between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day to maintain proper cardiovascular function. In reality, the average sodium consumption of Americans ranges between 3,400 and 3,700 milligrams per day, a figure that is not only above what is considered healthy, but almost twice as much the maximum limit established by the WHO.

Those who consume a higher amount of sodium have an increased risk for serious health complications, including heart disease and kidney stones. It is these people that the reduction in salt targets, mostly because the more sodium they consume, the more at risk they become. But what happens when a healthy adult decreases his or her sodium intake to a level below what is considered to be healthy? It is here where trouble starts.

New studies carried out over a period of several years have shown that those who reduce their salt intake below the acceptable limits actually present a 27% higher risk of a lethal heart attack than those who consume 3,000 to 6,000 milligrams of sodium per day. In effect, the affectation to cardiac health is larger when you consume less salt than what is considered to be healthy. As a matter of fact, those who already have a history of cardiac problems do not show a marked reduction in their risk of a heart attack when they cut down the amount of salt they eat every day.

One of the reasons for this is that a lack of salt in a person’s diet tends to increase the amount of chemicals that can damage their heart, which means, in essence, that having too little salt can be just as bad as having too much. This can only mean one thing: those with an existing heart condition may be more likely to die of related causes by lowering the amount of salt they consume daily than by keeping their intake at its current level.

As if this weren’t enough, cutting down on salt can also create an important rise in cholesterol, which is a direct cause of cardiovascular related deaths. Even so, at this time these studies are still in progress and other types of tests must be carried out before these findings are considered to be finalized, so it is always a good idea to consult with your physician before you abruptly cut salt from your diet, especially if you already have a pre-existing condition.

For many, cutting salt seems like it’s not a big deal, so they simply substitute salt for a variety of spices to add flavor to a meal, but the damage being done beyond the outward appearance can end up handing out a costly bill to those who do not consider other important factors prior to any dietary change. The best thing to do while we wait for these important findings to be verified is to maintain our salt intake within the limits already established by the WHO and other medical organizations to avoid running any unnecessary health risks that may be more damaging than good.

To reduce the risk of cardiac conditions such as high blood pressure, increased cholesterol and heart failure, even before you decide to cut back on the amount of salt you consume daily, it is always best to reduce your alcohol intake, stop smoking and start a moderate exercise program that will help keep a potentially life threatening condition at bay, without increasing your risk of a fatal side effect to a sudden dietary change.

In the end, the amount of salt we consume daily will depend on our specific health and characteristics, with some being able to have more, and others requiring less, but to avoid having any potentially damaging effects, consulting a specialist is probably the most effective way to achieving a cure or maintaining the proper balance between too much and too little.

While cutting salt can do more harm than good, the WHO still advises the daily intake be between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams, which means that as long as you stay within those limits, eat a variety of healthy foods and consult your physician regularly, you will be able to have a long and productive life without any of the negative side effects shown to be caused by making abrupt changes to your daily diet, regardless of how much or how little salt you add to your food.

  • Della Roth


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