The Truth About Salt: Why a Low-Salt Diet Could Be Harming Your Health

The Truth About Salt: Why a Low-Salt Diet Could Be Harming Your Health

Cambria Bold
Jun 4, 2012

Behind every casual flip of the shaker, every "season to taste" instruction, and every meal dined out was the 40-year-old warning: too much salt causes hypertension, so limit, limit, limit! But what if we told you that the science behind that claim has, much like the salt shaker itself, been turned on its head?

Gary Taubes—science journalist and author of the much-buzzed about Why We Get Fat and this article on the insidiousness of sugar—has a new op-ed in The New York Times claiming the science behind the eat-less-salt argument is remarkably flimsy, and doesn't warrant all the attention. In fact, Taubes says new research suggests we'd be harming rather than helping ourselves if we truly ate as little salt as the U.S.D.A. and the C.D.C. recommend.

The idea that eating less salt can worsen health outcomes may sound bizarre, but it also has biological plausibility and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, too. A 1972 paper in The New England Journal of Medicine reported that the less salt people ate, the higher their levels of a substance secreted by the kidneys, called renin, which set off a physiological cascade of events that seemed to end with an increased risk of heart disease. In this scenario: eat less salt, secrete more renin, get heart disease, die prematurely.

Taubes goes on to say that four new studies report that both healthy people and those with chronic health problems (Type 1 diabetics, Type 2 diabetics, and chronic heart failure) are more likely to have heart disease on a low-salt diet than those who eat in the normal range - that is, one and a half teaspoons of salt per day.

Read the full article and then come back and tell us: What do you think about this? Do you feel vindicated? Or are you still concerned?

Read More: Salt, We Misjudged You at The New York Times

Related: Demystifying Salt: 3 Essential Types

(Image: Jiri Hera/Shutterstock)

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