Why the War on Salt Is Dangerous

by | Jul 1, 2022 | Health Blog | 0 comments

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

The idea that salt is dangerous for you and contributes to hypertension and coronary heart illness is an concept that has grow to be kind of cemented as dogma. Alas, the conflict on salt has had a lot of drawbacks and unintended penalties. For starters, proof reveals having the proper potassium to sodium stability influences your danger for hypertension and coronary heart illness to a far better extent than excessive sodium alone, and the Western food regimen 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 a lot of well being issues, together with weight problems, complications, fatigue and melancholy. Attributable to its potential to overexcite neurons, MSG could even increase your danger for neurological problems corresponding to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s illness (ALS).

Warfare on Salt Is Misguided

In 2010, New York Metropolis launched the Nationwide Salt Discount Initiative, a salt-reduction plan aimed 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 School of Drugs 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 loss of life. 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 instructed the New York Publish:2

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

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

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

Potassium Stage Impacts Excessive Blood Strain Extra Than Sodium

Research have clearly proven that having the proper stability of potassium to sodium is way extra necessary 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 is important for optimum well being and regular functioning.

Potassium works in your physique to calm down the partitions of your arteries, hold your muscle groups from cramping and lowers your blood strain.3 The discount in blood strain with added potassium has additionally been related in research with a diminished danger of stroke.4

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

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

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

“The proof could be very robust and really constant. A better potassium consumption could blunt the consequences of extra salt on blood strain. Potassium’s impact is greater in individuals who have larger blood strain, larger in older individuals, larger in people who find themselves consuming lots of salt and larger in black individuals.”

The Many Advantages of Potassium

Latest analysis discovered that girls with out hypertension who consumed essentially the most potassium (practically 3,200 mg/day) had a 21% diminished danger of stroke. Additional, ladies who consumed essentially the most potassium had 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 degree and sustaining mind perform.14

For instance, potassium is necessary within the transmission of nerve impulses in your mind, spinal twine and peripheral nervous system.15 Nerve impulses transmitting info from one nerve to the following 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 sort 2 diabetes.17 These outcomes have been present in a number of research,18 main researchers to suggest dietary selections that enhance potassium ranges and cut back the danger of sort 2 diabetes.

Sodium/Potassium Ratio Is Key to Sturdy Muscle groups

The important thing to stress-free your arterial partitions and decreasing your blood strain is the sodium-to-potassium ratio. If you happen to eat lots of processed meals and few contemporary greens, there is a good probability your sodium-to-potassium ratio is unbalanced.

If you happen to’re not sure, use cronometer.com/mercola, a nutrient tracker that permits you to enter the meals you eat after which calculates the ratio routinely. It is usually really useful that you simply eat 5 instances extra potassium than sodium, however most People eat twice as a lot sodium as potassium.

This ratio is way extra necessary in 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 regimen wealthy in potassium as a substitute, as this nutrient helps offset the hypertensive results of sodium.

Imbalance on this ratio can’t solely result in hypertension but additionally contribute to a lot 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 substitute the salt with one thing extra damaging, particularly MSG. In an effort to normalize this substitution by declaring it secure and wholesome, the Worldwide Glutamate Info Service wrote the article, “MSG Is Helpful in a Decreased Sodium Weight-reduction plan,” saying:20

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

Research have demonstrated that folks discover meals with low ranges of salt far more acceptable when a small quantity of [MSG] is added. MSG is mistakenly considered being excessive in sodium. Nevertheless, MSG incorporates solely one-third the quantity of sodium as desk salt …

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

Well being Hazards of MSG

Whereas MSG is touted as a secure meals additive, having obtained “Usually Acknowledged as Secure” (GRAS) standing in 1959, scientific proof towards it has stacked up. Paradoxically, 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 considered 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 vitality 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 adjustments32

Elevated danger of infertility33,34

Extreme rhinitis in these with MSG intolerance35


Acute Aspect Results of MSG Ingestion

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


Chest tightness

Wheezing and/or issue respiratory




Flushing and/or tingling of the face

Burning or numbness at the back of your neck and/or higher physique

Coronary heart palpitations

Belly ache


Weak spot within the legs

The MSG Symptom Complicated 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 the next incidence of signs after consuming MSG, in comparison with a placebo. Sixty-one members obtained 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 unwanted side effects from the placebo, the severity of signs had been better amongst those that obtained MSG than placebo. The members had been then rechallenged with placebo and 1.25, 2.5 and 5 gm of MSG. In accordance with the authors:

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

Oral problem with MSG reproduced signs in alleged delicate individual … In accordance 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 towards MSG’s adversarial results. Vitamin C was discovered to supply “vital safety towards 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 accordance 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 had been elevated and glutathione content material was diminished within the MSG-challenged rats, and these results had 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 should be listed within the listing of elements as “monosodium glutamate,” its absence isn’t any assure of security. MSG and artificial free glutamate in various quantities can nonetheless cover in processed meals below names corresponding 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 recognized, MSG is even used as a stabilizer in sure vaccines,43 which appears to be a very dangerous thought contemplating its many adversarial well being results, significantly on the mind. In accordance with the U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, MSG could 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 incorporates greater than a single nutrient and in numerous varieties. For example, potassium present in vegatables and fruits is potassium citrate or potassium malate, whereas dietary supplements are sometimes potassium chloride. The citrate and malate varieties 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 enhancing bone well being. She explains:47

“In terms of dietary considerations concerning bone well being, calcium and vitamin D have obtained essentially the most consideration, however there may be rising proof that the acid/base stability of the food regimen can be necessary …

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 implies that rising the alkali content material of the food regimen could attenuate bone loss in wholesome older adults.”

Analysis by Dawson-Hughes discovered that individuals who had been within the impartial vary for web acid excretion, that means they’d a reasonably wholesome stability for bone and muscle well being, had been consuming simply over eight servings of vegatables and fruits per day together with 5.5 servings of grains. After 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 typically. When cooking from scratch, you may have full management over how a lot salt you add.

Along with that, once 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 regimen, see the associated articles listed.

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