The Uneasy Case Against Salt

Other than Lot’s wife, it is hard to point to a single human being who has been harmed by salt. This is from a 2006 paper by Franco and Oparil:

High dietary sodium has been adduced as a cause of hypertension and its target organ damage for millennia; yet careful observations using sophisticated techniques have revealed only a weak relationship between sodium intake/excretion and blood pressure in the general population. Further, studies of the effects of dietary sodium reduction on blood pressure have revealed minimal achieved reductions in blood pressure, no relationship between the magnitude of reduction in sodium intake/excretion and the blood pressure effect, and no evidence of an effect of sodium reduction on death or cardiovascular events. While blood pressure in the population as a whole is only modestly responsive to alterations in sodium intake, some individuals manifest large blood pressure changes in response to acute or chronic salt depletion or repletion, and are termed “salt sensitive”…


“When it rains, it pours.


The paper goes on to say that “Variation in dietary sodium intake over the usual range plays a minor role in blood pressure regulation in the general population, and appears not to be a determinant of cardiovascular disease outcomes.”

This isn’t the only paper that reaches this conclusion. In the abstract for a 2004 paper on the case against universal sodium restriction, Alderman concludes:

 “…The several available studies in the general population are inconsistent and demonstrate heterogeneity across subgroups in the relation of sodium intake to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality…Taken together, these data provide no support for the notion that either normotensive or hypertensive individuals should routinely decrease (or increase) dietary sodium intake.”

This suggests that having the FDA regulate the salt found in processed foods has more to do with puritanical religious impulses than with actual science.

Comments (6)

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  1. Vicki says:

    Good post Linda. We need to hear the other side of this issue.

  2. attila says:

    Bravo! It’s high time that salt got a fair shake in this debate. I grow weary of all the health warnings that are peppered with pseudo-science.

  3. Tom H. says:

    Excellent post, Linda. Glad to see a voice of reason weigh in on this issue.

  4. Devon Herrick says:

    A decade ago I ran across a headline from a study that found low salt intake was correlated with mortality. This article is just about dialysis patients, but here is the conclusion from the abstract: “This study revealed that low dietary sodium intake independently predicts the high overall and cardiovascular mortality in dialysis patients.”

  5. Virginia says:

    Pass the salt, please.

  6. Bart Ingles says:

    Rather than reducing salt intake, a better way to manage sodium might be to break a sweat once in a while. It seems to work better.