August 11, 2022

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Why the Struggle on Salt Is Harmful

This text was beforehand revealed March 15, 2017, and has been up to date with new info.

The idea that salt is unhealthy for you and contributes to hypertension and coronary heart illness is an concept that has change into kind of cemented as dogma. Alas, the warfare on salt has had plenty of drawbacks and unintended penalties. For starters, proof exhibits having the proper potassium to sodium stability influences your danger for hypertension and coronary heart illness to a far higher extent than excessive sodium alone, and the Western food plan tends to be missing in potassium.

Furthermore, when decreasing salt in processed meals, many producers took to including monosodium glutamate (MSG) as a substitute — a taste enhancer related to plenty of well being issues, together with weight problems, complications, fatigue and melancholy. On account of its potential to overexcite neurons, MSG could even elevate your danger for neurological problems comparable to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s illness (ALS).

Struggle on Salt Is Misguided

In 2010, New York Metropolis launched the Nationwide Salt Discount Initiative, a salt-reduction plan geared toward decreasing salt in processed meals and restaurant meals by 25% within the subsequent 4 years. Two years later, Dr. Sean Lucan of the Albert Einstein Faculty of Medication wrote an article revealed on-line within the American Journal of Public Well being, saying:1

“We can not extrapolate that decreasing sodium consumption would scale back cardiovascular danger or untimely dying. Regardless of assertions on the contrary, we have no idea that decreasing imply inhabitants sodium consumption would lower the danger of heart problems or save lives.”

On the time, Lucan advised the New York Publish:2

“We will’t simply swallow this as truth — there’s really debate about this. My concern is that they’re specializing in a single ingredient that the meals trade goes to have to exchange with one thing — and what they exchange it with could be extra damaging.”

Lucan additionally famous that the connection between sodium and blood stress is inconsistent and from a scientific standpoint, insubstantial. Furthermore, he pressured that some research really present a low-salt food plan can worsen heart problems and lift fairly than decrease the danger for early dying amongst sufferers at excessive danger of coronary heart illness.

As well as, decreasing salt consumption might additionally lower insulin sensitivity and have an opposed impact on blood lipids. Appropriately, Lucan famous that “Refined carbohydrates are a higher enemy.”

Potassium Stage Impacts Excessive Blood Strain Extra Than Sodium

Research have clearly proven that having the proper stability of potassium to sodium is much extra vital than decreasing salt alone. Potassium is a naturally occurring mineral your physique makes use of as an electrolyte (substance in answer that conducts electrical energy), and it’s important for optimum well being and regular functioning.

Potassium works in your physique to chill out the partitions of your arteries, hold your muscle mass from cramping and lowers your blood stress.3 The discount in blood stress with added potassium has additionally been related in research with a lowered danger of stroke.4

Whereas diarrhea, vomiting, extreme sweating (comparable to when utilizing a sauna) and a few medicine could deplete or disrupt your potassium stability, the most typical motive for low potassium is consuming a potassium-poor food plan. Should you’re consuming largely processed meals, your sodium-to-potassium stability is just about assured to be inversed.

The typical reported consumption of potassium from meals is about half of the 4,700 milligrams (mg) beneficial.5 Analysis demonstrates these low ranges of potassium could have a big influence on blood stress, particularly when mixed with an excessive amount of salt.

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Dr. Paul Welton, professor of epidemiology at Tulane College of Public Well being and Tropical Medication, analyzed 29 trials that demonstrated low ranges of potassium resulted in larger systolic blood stress readings.6 Research carried out since then have discovered related outcomes.7,8 In keeping with Welton:9

“The proof may be very sturdy and really constant. The next potassium consumption could blunt the results of extra salt on blood stress. Potassium’s impact is greater in individuals who have larger blood stress, larger in older folks, larger in people who find themselves consuming a whole lot of salt and larger in black folks.”

The Many Advantages of Potassium

Latest analysis discovered that ladies with out hypertension who consumed probably the most potassium (practically 3,200 mg/day) had a 21% lowered danger of stroke. Additional, girls who consumed probably the most potassium have been 12% much less more likely to die throughout the examine interval than those that consumed the least.10

Sufficient quantities of potassium are additionally related to faster restoration from train and improved muscle power.11,12 As an electrolyte, potassium helps to control the fluid stability in your cells and all through your physique.13 This fluid stability is important to sustaining life, stopping dehydration on the mobile stage and sustaining mind perform.14

For instance, potassium is vital within the transmission of nerve impulses in your mind, spinal wire and peripheral nervous system.15 Nerve impulses transmitting info from one nerve to the subsequent occurs as the results of electrical exercise. This exercise is what an electrocardiogram measures because it tracks coronary heart exercise.

Low ranges of potassium have additionally been linked with excessive ranges of insulin and glucose,16 that are related to metabolic syndrome and kind 2 diabetes.17 These outcomes have been present in a number of research,18 main researchers to advocate dietary selections that enhance potassium ranges and scale back the danger of sort 2 diabetes.

Sodium/Potassium Ratio Is Key to Robust Muscle tissue

The important thing to enjoyable your arterial partitions and decreasing your blood stress is the sodium-to-potassium ratio. Should you eat a whole lot of processed meals and few recent greens, there’s likelihood your sodium-to-potassium ratio is unbalanced.

Should you’re uncertain, use, a nutrient tracker that permits you to enter the meals you eat after which calculates the ratio mechanically. It’s typically beneficial that you simply eat 5 occasions extra potassium than sodium, however most People eat twice as a lot sodium as potassium.

This ratio is much extra vital to your well being than your total salt consumption,19 and a greater technique to advertise public well being could be to forgo the strict sodium discount ingredient and focus suggestions on a high-quality food plan wealthy in potassium as a substitute, as this nutrient helps offset the hypertensive results of sodium.

Imbalance on this ratio cannot solely result in hypertension but in addition contribute to plenty of different well being issues, together with:

Kidney stones

Reminiscence decline



Erectile dysfunction

Abdomen ulcers

Rheumatoid arthritis

Abdomen most cancers

Much less Salt, Extra MSG

As Lucan suspected, in lots of circumstances, meals producers did certainly exchange the salt with one thing extra damaging, specifically MSG. In an effort to normalize this substitution by declaring it protected and wholesome, the Worldwide Glutamate Data Service wrote the article, “MSG Is Helpful in a Lowered Sodium Eating regimen,” saying:20

“Since its discovery over 100 years in the past, [MSG] has been used successfully to reinforce the umami style in meals. Additionally it is an efficient technique of decreasing the degrees of salt utilized in meals preparation.

Research have demonstrated that individuals discover meals with low ranges of salt rather more acceptable when a small quantity of [MSG] is added. MSG is mistakenly regarded as being excessive in sodium. Nonetheless, MSG accommodates solely one-third the quantity of sodium as desk salt …

MSG is commonly an vital ingredient for folks on a low-sodium food plan, as a result of it improves the flavour of a dish whereas decreasing the necessity for salt … [W]hen MSG is added … sodium ranges might be lowered by as much as 40 % whereas sustaining the specified taste.”

Well being Hazards of MSG

Whereas MSG is touted as a protected meals additive, having acquired “Typically Acknowledged as Protected” (GRAS) standing in 1959, scientific proof in opposition to it has stacked up. Mockingly, MSG has even been linked to hypertension,21 successfully negating the proposed good thing about changing sodium with MSG. Analysis has additionally linked MSG consumption to:

Endocrine disruption, metabolic syndrome, weight problems22,23 and weight achieve.24 The load achieve, which was not related to larger quantities of energy, is regarded as associated to MSG’s influence on leptin.

Individuals who ate extra MSG produced larger quantities of leptin, a hormone concerned in urge for food regulation and metabolism. By inflicting leptin resistance, your physique loses its potential to correctly course of the power derived from the meals

Genotoxicity; particularly, MSG was discovered to be genotoxic to human peripheral blood lymphocytes (mature white blood cells/immune cells present in your blood circulation)25

Thyroid harm, even at low doses26

Kidney dysfunction27

Intestinal harm, attributable to progressive harm to epithelial cells in your small gut28

Liver harm that may result in fibrosis, non-alcoholic fatty liver illness and pre-cancerous lesions29,30

Mind lesions,31 seizures and behavioral modifications32

Elevated danger of infertility33,34

Extreme rhinitis in these with MSG intolerance35


Acute Aspect Results of MSG Ingestion

Many additionally expertise extra rapid uncomfortable side effects from MSG, with a pounding headache being one of the vital outstanding. Whereas the precise reason for MSG-induced headache stays unclear, analysis investigating the matter has demonstrated that MSG “induces a dose-dependent swelling and dying of mature neurons,”37 which can be a part of the equation. Different widespread uncomfortable side effects that will happen inside an hour or so of consuming MSG embrace:38,39


Chest tightness

Wheezing and/or problem respiratory




Flushing and/or tingling of the face

Burning or numbness behind your neck and/or higher physique

Coronary heart palpitations

Belly ache


Weak point within the legs

The MSG Symptom Advanced Is Actual

A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized examine40 revealed in 1997 investigated MSG signs by conducting an oral problem in “self-identified MSG-sensitive topics” to see whether or not they actually had a better incidence of signs after consuming MSG, in comparison with a placebo. Sixty-one members acquired 5 grams (gm) of MSG or placebo as an preliminary problem. Of them:

  • 29.5% had no response to both MSG or placebo
  • 9.8% responded to each
  • 24.6% responded to placebo
  • 36.1% responded to MSG

Whereas many reported uncomfortable side effects from the placebo, the severity of signs have been higher amongst those that acquired MSG than placebo. The members have been then rechallenged with placebo and 1.25, 2.5 and 5 gm of MSG. In keeping with the authors:

“Rechallenge revealed an obvious threshold dose for reactivity of two.5 gm MSG. Headache, muscle tightness, numbness/tingling, common weak spot and flushing occurred extra ceaselessly after MSG than placebo ingestion.

Oral problem with MSG reproduced signs in alleged delicate individual … In keeping with Meals and Drug Administration suggestions, the signs, initially referred to as the Chinese language restaurant syndrome, are higher known as the MSG symptom advanced.”

Vitamin C and Lycopene Provide Safety Towards MSG’s Results

Sure compounds have been discovered to supply some safety in opposition to MSG’s opposed results. Vitamin C was discovered to supply “important safety in opposition to MSG toxicity” in a single examine,41 and lycopene has additionally been discovered to avert its neurotoxic results. A examine investigating the latter gave male rats both 5 milligrams (mg) per kilo (kg) of MSG, 10 mg/kg of lycopene, MSG with lycopene, or placebo, for 30 days. In keeping with the authors:

“The outcomes confirmed that MSG induced elevation in lipid peroxidation marker and perturbation within the antioxidant homeostasis … Glutathione S-transferase … superoxide dismutase … and catalase … actions and gene expression have been elevated and glutathione content material was lowered within the MSG-challenged rats, and these results have been ameliorated by lycopene …

Our outcomes point out that lycopene seems to be extremely efficient in relieving the poisonous results of MSG by inhibiting lipid peroxidation and inducing modifications within the exercise of cholinesterase and antioxidant pathways. Apparently, lycopene protects mind tissue by inhibiting apoptosis signaling induced by MSG.”

Hidden Sources of MSG

Whereas added MSG have to be listed within the record of components as “monosodium glutamate,” its absence is not any assure of security. MSG and artificial free glutamate in various quantities can nonetheless conceal in processed meals beneath names comparable to:42

Hydrolyzed vegetable protein

Autolyzed or hydrolyzed yeast

Yeast extract

Soy extract

Protein isolate

Pure taste

Glutamate and monopotassium glutamate

Calcium caseinate


Whereas not generally identified, MSG is even used as a stabilizer in sure vaccines,43 which appears to be a very unhealthy concept contemplating its many opposed well being results, notably on the mind. In keeping with the U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, MSG might be discovered within the following 5 vaccines:44

  • Adenovirus
  • Influenza quadrivalent (FluMist)
  • MMRV (ProQuad)
  • Varicella (Varivax)
  • Zoster (Shingles-Zostavax)

Actual Meals Is the Reply

Getting vitamins out of your meals as a substitute of dietary supplements is preferable as your meals accommodates greater than a single nutrient and in several types. As an illustration, potassium present in vegatables and fruits is potassium citrate or potassium malate, whereas dietary supplements are sometimes potassium chloride. The citrate and malate types assist produce alkali, which can promote bone well being45 and protect lean muscle mass as you age.46

Bone loss could result in brittle bones and even osteoporosis. Whereas potassium in vegatables and fruits could assist construct bone well being, potassium chloride could not. As researcher Dr. Bess Dawson-Hughes from Tufts College present in a examine evaluating potassium bicarbonate, sodium bicarbonate and potassium chloride supplementation for 3 months, including alkali, not potassium, is the important thing to bettering bone well being. She explains:47

“In relation to dietary issues relating to bone well being, calcium and vitamin D have acquired probably the most consideration, however there may be rising proof that the acid/base stability of the food plan can be vital …

When vegatables and fruits are metabolized, they add bicarbonate, an alkaline compound, to the physique. Our examine discovered that bicarbonate had a positive impact on bone resorption and calcium excretion. This means that rising the alkali content material of the food plan could attenuate bone loss in wholesome older adults.”

Analysis by Dawson-Hughes discovered that individuals who have been within the impartial vary for web acid excretion, that means that they had a reasonably wholesome stability for bone and muscle well being, have been consuming simply over eight servings of vegatables and fruits per day together with 5.5 servings of grains. Once they rounded this out, it got here to about half as many grains as vegatables and fruits.

For a lot of People, a easy advice to extend your alkali (and potassium) whereas decreasing acid is to eat extra greens and fewer grains and processed meals on the whole. When cooking from scratch, you might have full management over how a lot salt you add.

Along with that, if you do use salt, be certain its unrefined and minimally processed. My private favourite is Himalayan pink salt, wealthy in naturally-occurring hint minerals wanted for wholesome bones, fluid stability and total well being. To be taught extra in regards to the significance of unprocessed salt in your food plan, see the associated articles listed.

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