What exactly is salt, and how does it impact humans?
Salt 101 🤓:
A Brief History of Salt + You.
In this article you will learn:👉 How you and the ocean share remarkable similarities.
You're one salty organism.
You're one salty organism. Really. Humans share very real similarities with the oceans that make up 71% of the Earth’s surface, which also make up 99% of the Earth's total living space. Sodium Chloride, aka salt, constitutes 90% of the entire oceans mineral content, which is the same percentage of mineral content found in the human bloodstream. From the ocean, came life, where cells could only survive within a narrow range of electrolyte levels in the extracellular fluid that bathes them. Thus, the development of several salt regulating systems had to occur for life to thrive, which are still prevalent in our bodies today, including our skin, adrenal glands and kidneys. These systems drive us to seek out and retain salt when we need it, and secrete it when we don't.
Wait, are you saying...
Yep. You evolved from an extremely salty environment, and took with you the ability to thrive in not-so-salty environments with bodily systems that control the precise electrolyte levels that facilitates cell life.
But isn't salt bad?
Well, no. Due to a number of drastically irresponsible recommendations from health organisations, based on research that had very little scientific evidence supporting these recommendations, the common belief was to reduce salt intake in order to reduce blood pressure and cardiovascular events. The hypothesis was that with an increased consumption of salt, you would need to drink more water. Your body would hold onto that water to dilute the excess salt in the blood, thus increasing overall blood volume and subsequently blood pressure leading to cardiovascular events...
Why did they think salt was so bad?
What they failed to mention is that these studies of the high-salt, high blood pressure connection saw positive results in only 20% of the population. To be in 20% of the population that saw an increase in blood pressure, two important factors needed to be met. You needed to be genetically predisposed to high blood pressure, or have a diet low in potassium. So, despite 80% of the population not seeing the blood pressure raising effect of high salt, a blanket low-salt guideline was administered across the total population, in an attempt to curb cardiovascular events. Furthermore, reducing salt intake to around 2,300mg / day (1 tsp) only saw an insignificant 1% drop in blood pressure, where, the negative side effects of reducing ones salt intake are far worse than the blood pressure reducing effects experienced. Despite an overwhelming amount of critics advocating against this high-salt, high blood pressure theory, it was taken to the mainstream population prematurely, without sufficient evidence supporting its claims. Instead, if they had looked at the all important point of why salt may increase blood pressure in some, and not in others, they would have found it had nothing to do with salt, and in fact, addressing the underlying issue would completely fix one's salt sensitivity.
So where is the evidence?
Great question. We have known for some time now! This study in 2011 found that the link between sodium and cardio-vascular events was J shaped. Meaning, lower sodium excretion was associated with more CV events, against base-line, where higher sodium excretion was associated with lower levels of CV events and strokes.
Should I eat salt?
Absolutely, if you are one of the majority of people who are not salt sensitive, your body has the ability to easily clear excess sodium using the mechanisms responsible for maintaining healthy electrolyte levels in the body. Contrarily, with little mechanisms built in to handle the massive amounts seen in modern diets today, sugar wreaks havoc on your body by diluting salt levels in your blood, causing dehydration, hypertension, insulin resistance and much more.
What's up next?
Find out what's so special about salt and why humans depend on it.
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