For decades, we have been told by doctors to limit our intake of sodium. Why? It is believed that too much sodium can lead to heart attack and stroke. We have been told that sodium is a big contributor to high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Water retention and inflammation have been blamed on too much sodium in our diets. Too much sodium is supposed to interfere with our ability to lose weight by “gluing” those unwanted fat cells onto our bodies. These beliefs might just be simply myths instead of facts.
Salt provides two essential elements into our diet…sodium and chloride. The body cannot function without these elements. We need salt to be able to absorb and retain calcium, for example. (There are over 200 diseases that are linked to a simple calcium deficiency!) Sodium is contained in the bones. About 40% of the body’s sodium is found in the bones. It is needed to help the nerves conduct properly and helps to deliver various nutrients to different parts of the body. It is integral in helping to maintain blood pressure.
The maintenance of blood pressure, blood volume, and the PH of the body fluids is also influenced by the chloride ions found in salt (NaCl). These ions are also necessary to create the necessary hydrochloric acid needed in our stomachs to break down foods and ensure proper digestion. Without proper digestion, the body cannot absorb critical nutrients to keep it running optimally.
However, the belief remains that we need to limit our salt intake to reduce our blood pressure and, therefore, reduce our chances of suffering from a heart attack or stroke. Until the 1990’s, no one ever tested this theory by actually documenting whether a salt reduction in the diet actually reduced the person’s chances of having a heart attack or stroke. We just all jumped on the bandwagon and believed what we were being told…either because we wanted to believe it was true or were afraid that it might be true!
Since then, studies show that there are no real health benefits from eating a sodium-reduced diet. When looking at how the body needs and utilizes salt, it appears that there might be more concern for restricting too much sodium!
In a study analysis of the MRFTT database, it was found that there was “no relationship observed between dietary sodium and mortality.”
A 2003 study done by Dutch researchers concluded that “variations in dietary sodium and potassium within the range commonly observed in Westernized societies have no material effect on the occurrence of cardiovascular events and mortality at old age.”
In 2008, data from the largest US federal database of nutrition and health confirmed two earlier studies that there was no health benefit (cardio-vascular disease or all-cause mortality) for those on low-sodium diets.
In another study done by DASH, it was concluded that simply looking at sodium intake was only part of the equation. Consumption of potassium, magnesium and other nutrients needed to be taken into account. The same study claimed that we’re not eating enough other essential nutrients. Is it possible that the real issue is that the body is deficient in one or more of the 89 other nutrients? Absolutely! When the body runs out of a key nutrient, something “breaks.” It needs all 90 to run right.
To fractionate our nutritional needs is a dangerous practice. To attack sodium all by itself is not looking at the entire picture. In every article written about sodium, they all state that sodium is a necessary nutrient needed in the body.