Health Effects of Salt: Is Salt Healthy or Unhealthy

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Health Effects of Salt

The term ‘salt’, ‘sea salt’ or ‘table salt’ relate primarily to the compound sodium chloride. Sodium is the sixth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, of which it constitutes 2.8%. Sodium is a reactive element and is always found in compound form. There is a huge variety of salts containing sodium and many of these are found in food. Sodium chloride is very soluble in water and is seawater comprises about 80% of the dissolved matter. Salt in food is used mainly for its preservative, functional and seasoning properties. This article aims to give a clear idea of health effects of salt in our daily life.


Health Effects of Salt: Is Salt Healthy or Unhealthy

A History of Salt Intake:

The fundamental importance of salt has been recognized from the earlier times when humans evolved in a hot African environment with scarce sources of salt. In common with other terrestrial animals, humans have special taste and salt appetite systems and have evolved an effective intestinal, urinary and skin conservation system to minimize loses so that fundamental requirements for salt can be met.

Evidence has been found of salt use during the Neolithic Age and the Egyptian, Babylonian and Chinese civilizations all had special culinary uses for salt that are well documented.

During the earliest period of British rule in India, the supply of salt was continuous, often a monopoly, and then taxed. Mahatma Gandhi emphasized the essential nature of common salt for human and animal wellbeing, especially in a tropical country like India.

Health Effects of Salt:

Relation Between Salt Intake and Blood Pressure:

The importance of salt in inducing high blood pressure is based on animal experiments in investigations at the cellular level, clinical studies and dietary intervention trails as well as population analysis of blood pressure in relation to salt intake. Some evidence suggests that chloride may play a pivotal role in the regulation of renin release and hypertension when sodium chloride is fed, but in practical terms the discrimination between sodium and chloride intakes in man is unnecessary since sodium and chloride intakes are closely matched.

Part of the difficulty in demonstrating a link between salt intake and hypertension is the wide range of individual salt sensitivity, the complications arising from the age-related increases in blood pressure and the interactions of other factors. These include altered maternal nutrition with a programming of subsequent tissue sensitivity to high salt intakes, the effects of weight gain, the impact of excess alcohol intakes, and the modulating effects of high potassium intakes and other modest ionic effects like high calcium intakes.

Relation Between Gastric Cancer and Stroke:

There is a strong geographical correlation between stomach cancer and stroke mortality, both of which correlate with salt intake. There are four recognized major aetiological factors for gastric adenocarcinoma: infection with Helicobacter pylori, excessive salt intake, low intake of ascorbic acid and low intakes of carotenoids or more generically of vegetables and fruits. Sodium chloride induces atrophicgastritis and enhances the mutagenic effect of nitrosated foods. Salt may also play a role in the later steps involving the transformation of mucosal dysplasia to carcinoma. The salted pickles and salted fish f Japanese cultures appear to be strongly linked to the development of stomach cancers.

Salt Effects on Osteoporosis:

It has been known for many years that sodium intake is one of the major determinants of urinary calcium excretion. Experimentally sodium intake increases calcium excretion but also induces markers of bone resorption. It is hypothesized that trabecular demineralization may occur, leading to postmenopausal changes and an increased risk of vertebral fractures and cortical erosions.

Bronchial Hyper-reactivity:

There have been no large-scale epidemiological studies, but a positive relationship between asthma mortality and regional purchases of table salt per person have been shown. In a randomized double-blind crossover trial in subjects with moderately severe asthma, the airway response to histamine was related to urinary excretion of sodium in a dose-response way, but only in men. A low-salt diet is regarded as having a potentially favorable effect in patients with asthma and may help t reduce the need for anti-asthma drugs.

Fluid Retention and Edema:

Salt has the ability to retain water in the body. Excessive consumption of salt can lead to fluid retention, causing swelling and discomfort, particularly in the extremities. This condition, known as edema, can exacerbate existing health issues, such as heart failure or liver disease.

Kidney Function:

Kidneys play a pivotal role in maintaining the body’s sodium balance. Consuming too much salt can overwork the kidneys, potentially leading to kidney function. Individuals with kidney disease or comprised kidney function are particularly susceptible to the effects of excess sodium.

Is Salt healthy or unhealthy?

Sodium, a component, plays a crucial role in maintaining fluid balance, nerve function and muscle contractions within the body. It assists in transmitting nerve impulses and influences the body’s pH balance. However, the body requires only a small amount of sodium to carry out these functions effectively.

However, eating too much or too little salt can be harmful and unhealthy. Intaking a balance amount of salt is the key. But a long term excess intake of salt is regarded as an inducer of hypertension and thus a risk for stroke and coronary heart disease. An excess of dietary salt may also affect three other conditions or hyperreactivity.

How to Reduce Salt Intake:

Gradual Reduction of Salt Intake:

As the salt deprivation became the major means of treating hypertension and coronary disease, a gradual reduction of taking salt in your daily diet is the key. The World Health Organization (WHO) and most national dietary guidelines now call for a lowering of salt intake to 6 g per day on average or less.

Choose Cooking Method:

Generally, conventional cooking methods require added salt. But the adopting the cooking methods like steaming, grilling or roasting do not need excess salt. So it is best to adopt these cooking strategies to reduce salt intake.

Using Herbs and Spices:

Cooking with herbs, spices and flavorings can reduce the reliance on salt for taste enhancement. Various herbs and spices can add depth and flavor to dishes without adding extra amount of sodium chloride.

Read the Food Labels:

It is very important to read the food labels when you are taking food in restaurant or outside. As most of the salt in the modern diet comes from restaurant foods and packaged foods, so it is important to avoid health effects of salt to avoid these foods. Some of the food items that contain high salt include – bread, processed meats, salty snacks, cheese products etc.

How Much Salt We Should Intake Per Day:

According to scientific recommendation, it is ideal to limit the intake of 3/4 teaspoons of salt for an adult person, but the individual with high blood pressure and coronary diseases may better to reduce the intake of salt to the maximum level. In that case, eating a low sodium intake may help to reduce blood pressure.

The Final Thought:

Salt is not only an essential ingredient in culinary part but it is also essential for optimal health. Health effects of salt can not be avoided in your day to day life. However, eating too much or eating too low can pose some health hazards. According to AHA recommendation, it is ideal to limit the intake of 3/4 teaspoons of salt for an adult person, but the individual with high blood pressure and coronary diseases may better to reduce the intake of salt to the maximum level. In that case, eating a low sodium intake may help to reduce blood pressure.

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