To Salt or Not to Salt...

Don’t you sometimes despair at the ‘Medical community’? I mean, just when we get our heads around what a healthy diet is, and alter our life choices accordingly, they go and spoil it! My friend Jean felt like this when she asked me about an article on salt claiming that “Lack of salt is hazardous to your health”.


Jean was confused because her doctor had told her to cut out as much salt as possible from her diet. Yet the article suggested that too little salt was dangerous.

Her doctor’s view represents the ‘Conventional’ premise that a high intake of this mineral clogs our arteries, and increases hypertension and blood pressure.

Indeed, over the last 40 years both the British Medical Association (BMA) and National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) have conducted clinical trials and published papers showing that high salt intakes are directly linked with strokes and heart attacks. The recommendation is that adults don't eat more than 6g per day.

This view may now be completely wrong if the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), as well as other sources, are to be believed.

The Research
After studying a population of 3,681 participants for an average of 7.9 years JAMA concluded that people with low concentrations of salt (sodium) in their urine had an increased risk of dying from cardio vascular problems. They claim that the findings: “do not support the current recommendations of a generalized and indiscriminate reduction of salt intake at the population level."

Similarly, other studies show how low-salt diets lead to:

  • higher mortality: An examinationof the largest U.S. federal database of nutrition and health (NHANES), published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found a higher rate of cardiac events and death with patients put on low-salt diets.
  • increased risk of insulin resistance and diabetes shown in a 2010 Harvard study and Australian research.
  • greater incidence of falls and cognitive problems among elderly: This is exacerbated by a declining renal function in the aging body causing the kidneys to retain less sodium.
  • low birth weights and poor brain development: A 2007 study found that babies with low birth weight also have low sodium in their blood serum because their mothers were on low-salt intakes. Another study found that infants with low sodium may be predisposed to poor neurodevelopmental function a decade later between the ages of 10 and 13.


Let’s look at the facts.

The JAMA Study
JAMA is a reputable publication. So I was surprised to note that their research measured the salt level in the urine, NOT, as is usual, in the blood. Sodium in urine is the excess excreted by the kidneys not necessarily the real level. Malfunctioning kidneys will also result in an abnormal sodium level.

Also, their finding are based on 84 deaths out of 3,681 - of which 50 were in the low salt excretion group, 24 in a medium and 10 in a high.

I ask you, are 50 deaths out of 3,681 statistically significant? And how do we know that kidney problems were not the issue with those?

My point is, if it were not for the other studies which did take blood serum samples, I would not give the JAMA conclusions alone much weight.

Role of Salt/Sodium in the Body
Salt/sodium is a key electrolyte. It generates critical electrical signals required for the proper functioning of many processes in the body, especially in the brain, nervous system, and muscles. Sodium maintains the right blood pressure, proper fluid balance and transmission of various nutrients into cells.

Therefore, too much or too little sodium can cause cells to malfunction. Extremes in the blood sodium levels (too much or too little) can be fatal.

As with everything in our body, it is this balance that is critical.

So the question is not so much: ‘To salt or not to salt”, but rather, “What is the right level appropriate for you?

How Much Sodium is Right for You?
You can answer that via a simple blood test and by listening to your body.

A ‘normal’ blood sodium level is 135 - 145 milliEquivalents/liter (mEq/L), or in international units, 135 - 145 millimoles/liter (mmol/L). This needs to be put into the context of your lifestyle, general health, and common sense!

Don't assume a low sodium diet is beneficial for everyone in general and to you in particular. Rather, sodium is good and necessary in moderation dependent on your unique circumstances.

So if you live in a very hot climate &/or sweat a lot, exercise regularly, experience confusion, hallucinations, convulsions, fatigue, headache, muscle spasms or cramps, nausea, restlessness, or vomiting you may need more sodium. If you have heart or kidney complications and edema you may need less.

My father for example, had severe muscle spasms and breathing difficulties. He dealt with this brilliantly! He was Polish and he regularly visited the Wieliczka Polish salt mine renowned to help and even cure respiratory complaints.

On his return (with a newly ‘infused’ salt pipe every time) he would proclaim that he was a “Rejuvenated man”!

8 Responses

Read Dr. Brownstein’s book….. "Salt your way to Health "

Julie May 27 2011

I use Himalayan salt. Actually I eat it pretty liberally.

After exercising excessively, I use sol, Himalayan salt in solution. It recharges me.

Maybe I’ll die of a stroke tomorrow…..who knows.

All I can say is that as a severe allergy sufferer, there are 1000’s of unregulated substances in our diets, environment and secondary food chain. (E.G. chemicals in soaps transmitted onto food in preparation).

All these things can make me extremely ill, trachychardia, arrythmia, raised blood pressure, migraines etc.

Himalyan Salt does not make me ill. My blood pressure and pulse are perfectly normal.(Yes I also take Xtend life fish oil and TB – which are extremely beneficial to my Multiple Chemical Sensitivity/Toxic Encephalopathy)

Himalyan salt (which has about 86 different elements) does not make me feel remotely ill.

Just my opinion – not to be construed as medical advice.

Marcus May 27 2011

News about salt and other diet/health matters have always pricked up my ears. A decade or more ago, an official (can’t remember his title, but he had a good one) went on the record on TV to say that persons with Cardiac Disease should cut their salt, as "in this group" high salt was a predictor of heart attacks. However, he also said, "if you are not in this risk group, then there is no correlation between salt levels and heart attack, so you don’t have to worry." Since I have no cardiac disease, I rather liked this advice, and have continued to put salt on my steaks.

Bill A May 27 2011

if you have read any of phillip days books you will notice that he frequently reccommends consuming himalayan salt as well as plenty of water.

paul ayton May 27 2011

For several years I suffered from arrhythmia. Started to introduce more salt into my diet a year ago. Within a week I was free of this and have not had an episode since. Coincidence? Maybe.

freddie May 27 2011

It also depends on whether you’re eating processed salt or sea salt. Just like all food, you are better off eating organic rather than processed.

Collin May 27 2011

Thank you all for your comments about salt. My response…..

Julie: You are right about  Dr. Brownstein’s book. He calls salt The most misunderstood nutrient. And did you know that the word "salary" comes from the Latin word for salt, a connection that dates back to a time when Roman soldiers were sometimes paid with salt.

Even today the expression "worth your salt" indicates that you’re working hard and earning your salary!

Freddie: that is a remarkable recovery indeed. I am surprised if salt were the only factor….perhaps you have been doing many other good things too and the salt finally tipped the balance in the right direction?

Bill: carry on enjoying your salt….in moderation! (Make sure the steaks are from grass fed animals!)

Colin, Paul and Marcus: You are all right about the advantages of unprocessed salt….Himalayan salt (white gold) is excellent. Here is some more information  <a href= >


Xtend-Life Expert May 28 2011

In the past I have taken advice not to use salt on my food, but I still eat salty crisps etc. I am very fit for my age or so they say, 79 and still at work.

Maurice Everson May 30 2011

Leave a comment (all fields required)