Over and over again, mainstream medicine offers health advice that is worse than useless – it can be downright dangerous.
And nowhere does the nonsense get any worse than when it comes to salt.
How often have you read or heard that we all need to be on a low salt diet? This misguided warning gets repeated way too many times.
Unless your intake is way, way over the top, there’s no good evidence that cutting back on salt will do you any good. Salt does NOT cause high blood pressure except in a tiny number of people. And besides that, research now shows that running short of salt can interfere with your thinking abilities.
A study at the University of Colorado demonstrates that in older men (I don’t know why they just did the study on men), a lower sodium level is linked to brain problems. The researchers found that having too little sodium in the blood, a condition referred to as hyponatremia, is associated with a slippage in cognitive function. It can interfere with your reasoning power, your memory, your attention span and your command of language.
And the Colorado scientists point out that in other studies mild hyponatremia has already been connected with attention deficits, problems walking and getting around, falls and broken bones, heart issues and premature death.
The Colorado tests involved more than 5,400 men over the age of 65 whose health and well-being were tracked for around four-and-a-half years.
They found that those with slightly lower amounts of sodium in their blood had increased risks for developing memory and thinking problems during the years of the study.1
“Slightly lower sodium levels in the blood are likely to be unnoticed in clinical practice,” says researcher Kristen Nowak. “Because both slightly lower serum sodium levels and mild changes in cognitive function are common occurrences with advancing age, future research on this topic is important – including determining whether correcting lower sodium levels affects cognitive function.”
Salt is Not a Deadly Menace
This study fits in with what I’ve been seeing for a long time in research on the effects of salt.
Now, it’s true that, in some people, cutting back on salt may lower blood pressure.
But is that even a good thing?
Consider a study out of Canada that looked at salt consumption’s influence on the health of more than 95,000 people aged 35 to 70 in 18 countries around the world.
The researchers’ conclusion? Unless you live in certain parts of China and a few other places that consume ridiculously large amounts of salt, there’s no good reason to cut back. As a matter of fact, they found that consuming a moderate amount of salt is good for your heart health.2
Let me repeat that: They found that eating moderate amounts of salt is better for your heart than eating the kind of very-low-salt diet that many “experts” espouse. (A moderate amount is considered to be three to five grams of sodium a day, which is about two to three teaspoons.)
The researchers acknowledge that, yes, cutting back on salt may reduce blood pressure. But at the same time they warn that low salt can be deadly.
As researcher Andrew Mente explains, “While low sodium intake does reduce blood pressure, at very low levels it may also have other effects, including adverse elevations of certain hormones associated with an increase in risk of death and cardiovascular diseases.”
I think that makes the situation pretty plain. You like salt in your food? Enjoy it, as long as you don’t go crazy. But follow the low-salt diet that is so often touted by the anti-salt crowd? It could cost you your health, your brain and your life.