Salt is bad for you
Some myths contain a grain of truth. Studies have associated excess salt with hypertension (high blood pressure), kidney damage, and an increased risk of cognitive decline.
But salt (sodium) is an essential mineral; its consumption is critical to your health. The problem is when you consume too much sodium and too little potassium.
Another issue is the source of all that salt. The average North American eats an incredible amount of salty processed foods — which means that people who consume a lot of salt tend to consume a lot of foods that are generally unhealthy. That makes it hard to tease apart sodium’s effects from overall dietary effects. Except for individuals with salt-sensitive hypertension, the evidence in support of low sodium intakes is less conclusive than most people would imagine. As it stands, both very high and very low intakes are associated with cardiovascular disease.
The Truth: Salt reduction is important for people with salt-sensitive hypertension, and excess salt intake is associated with harm. But drastically lowering salt intake has not shown uniform benefit in clinical trials. Most people will benefit more from a diet of mostly unprocessed foods than they would from micromanaging their salt intake.
- High salt induced hypertension leads to cognitive defect. Oncotarget. (2017) Guo CP, et al.
- A systematic survey of the sodium contents of processed foods. Am J Clin Nutr. (2010) Webster JL, Dunford EK, Neal BC.
- Salt-sensitive hypertension: mechanisms and effects of dietary and other lifestyle factors. Nutr Rev. (2016) Pilic L, Pedlar CR, Mavrommatis Y.
- Reduced Salt Intake for Heart Failure: A Systematic Review. JAMA Intern Med. (2018) Mahtani KR, et al.
- Reduced dietary salt for the prevention of cardiovascular disease.Cochrane Database Syst Rev. (2014) Adler AJ, et al.
- Urinary sodium and potassium excretion and risk of cardiovascular events. JAMA. (2011) O'Donnell MJ, et al.