Salt-Could it be killing us?

Salt–Could it be killing us?

Salt increases blood pressure, a major risk factor in heart disease and premature death.

Sodium is an essential nutrient. The major sources of sodium in diet are processed foods (70-75%), naturally occurring sodium in unprocessed food (10-15%) and the addition of salt during cooking or at the table (10-15%). Hence, processed foods are both the major source of salt in a person's diet, and the factor which individuals are least able to control.

The main health effect of too much sodium is high blood pressure, which is 'an acknowledged risk factor for ischemic heart disease, stroke and renal disease which are major causes of morbidity and mortality.

The danger for children of eating too much salt is particularly great because of the impact throughout life. Studies indicate that if children's blood pressure increases due to excess intake of salt the pressure levels can remain high later in life, even when salt intake is reduced.

High intake levels may increase susceptibility to carcinogens, leading to e.g. stomach cancer. Americans already eat way more than the recommended amount of salt, and now the CDC finds that even lower recommendations apply to 70% of us.

New data show that the average U.S. adult consumes one-and-a-half teaspoons of salt every day. That's a half teaspoon more than the basic daily recommendation of one teaspoon (about 2,300 milligrams of sodium).

But the recommendation is much lower for people with high blood pressure, people over 40, and all African-American adults. These groups should be eating no more than two-thirds of a teaspoon of salt (about 1,500 milligrams of sodium) per day.

More than two out of three Americans — some 145.5 million of us — are in those categories, the CDC now calculates.

When you eat salt, your blood pressure goes up. And high blood pressure dramatically increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. Recent studies definitively show that people who eat too much salt significantly increase their risk of stroke and heart disease.

This isn't exactly news. Ancient Chinese manuscripts describe a link between salt intake and high blood pressure. Yet over the last two decades, Americans' salt intake has gone up and up.

Where's all that salt coming from? No, it's neither the salt shaker on the table nor the box of salt next to the stove.

"Most of the salt in our diet comes from processed and manufactured foodsThe American Heart Association says up to 75% of our sodium intake comes from processed foods such as tomato sauce, soup, condiments, canned foods, and prepared mixes.

Salt isn't the only high-sodium chemical in our diet — there's also baking soda, baking powder, and MSG. And on food labels, you'll see it in a myriad of other ingredients such as disodium phosphate, sodium alginate, sodium benzoate, and so on.

We've got a taste for salt — but that can change very quickly. The irony is that while we are hurting our health with too much salt, food with much less salt starts tasting good — if not better — after only a few days.

"Your Health Is Worth the Investment"

Demetrice Morrison, RD LD/N MHSA

Registered Licensed Dietitian