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Salt is Good for You in Moderation

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Headlined to None 5/10/13

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What "experts" don't usually mention is the big difference between table salt and sea salt. Sea salt contains magnesium, which is a cofactor in numerous enzymes, enables nerve transmission and muscle contraction, induces relaxation, relieves constipation, promotes bone formation and tooth enamel, and reduces blood pressure and heart disease.  Sea salt also contains many other trace minerals. Babies and children are in special need of salt for their developing brains, and benefit greatly from obtaining essential minerals. On the other hand, table salt has virtually none of these minerals. But it does contain various additives - aluminum, dextrose, and a bleaching agent -- none of which adds to its health benefits. Iodine is also added, because the natural iodine is destroyed during the refining process.

Sea salt is also alkalizing to the body, whereas table salt is acid forming. This has been shown conclusively in tests conducted by Dr. Susan Brown, a bone health specialist from Syracuse, NY, and co-author of The Acid-Alkaline Food Guide. The modern diet is already overly acidic, and sea salt helps to restore balance due to its mineral content. Sea salt also tastes saltier than table salt, so less is needed.

Many health benefits have been attributed to sea salt, but it really depends on the quality. Most products branded as sea salt are actually refined and inferior. It's easy to tell, because it is as white as table salt. Unrefined sea salt is typically grayish, but can have a red or black hue. Celtic sea salt is the real deal; so is Himalayan sea salt. Red sea salt from Hawaii is another option.

Shaking out the truth

The current recommendation for sodium intake is 2.3 g/day (a bit over 5 g salt/day) or lower. Some experts are now advocating a re-evaluation of these guidelines. To put this in perspective, each teaspoon contains approximately 6 g of salt. Roughly speaking, the argument comes down to limiting salt intake to one or two teaspoons daily. While reducing high sodium intake makes some sense, further reduction from moderate to lower levels (<3 g/day) is not warranted for most people. Indeed, restricting sodium may actually have an adverse effect. At present, no high-quality clinical trial has shown that low sodium intake reduces CVD incidence. More importantly, it is imperative to reduce consumption of fast food and processed foods, which not only pack high sodium, but are detrimental to health in myriad ways. Optimally, using unrefined sea salt in a disciplined manner will make foods tastier while contributing significantly to heart health.

References

Alderman MH, Cohen HW. Dietary sodium intake and cardiovascular mortality: controversy resolved? Curr Hypertens Rep 2012;14:193--201.

Bernstein AM, Willett WC. Trends in 24-h urinary sodium excretion in the United States, 1957--2003: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr 2010;92:1172--1180.

Morris RC Jr., Schmidlin O, Frassetto LA, Sebastian A. Relationship and interaction between sodium and potassium. J Am Coll Nutr 2006;25(Suppl.):262S-270S.

O'Donnell MJ, Yusuf S, Mente A, et al. Urinary sodium and potassium excretion and risk of cardiovascular events. JAMA 2011;306:2229--2238.

O'Donnell MJ, Mente A, Smyth A, Yusuf S. Salt intake and cardiovascular disease: Why are the data inconsistent? Eur Heart J. 2013;34(14):1034-1040. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/782465.

Shimazu T, Kuriyama S, Hozawa A, Ohmori K, Sato Y, Nakaya N, Nishino Y, Tsubono Y, Tsuji I. Dietary patterns and cardiovascular disease mortality in Japan: a prospective cohort study. Int J Epidemiol 2007;36:600--609.

Strazzullo P, D'Elia L, Kandala NB, Cappuccio FP. Salt intake, stroke, and cardiovascular disease: meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ 2009;339:b4567.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt

https://www.cspinet.org/salt/

http://www.cspinet.org/new/201302131.html

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http://thescienceofnutritiondotnet.wordpress.com/

Dr. Phil Domenico is a research scientist and author of numerous peer-reviewed and trade publications. He worked for nearly two decades as a research director in infectious diseases and attained the level of adjunct Associate Professor at Stony (more...)
 
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