Why Is Salt Bad For You?

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Why Is Salt Bad For You?

Common salt is one of the most abundant minerals on earth. It is present in vast quantities in ocean water as well as occurring in crystalline form known as rock salt. Salt is an essential mineral for life and saltiness is one of the basic human tastes. Humans and other animals require more salt in their tissue than plants. Historically, using salt has been a common method to preserve food, as well as seasoning it during preparation. Sodium obtained by the consumption of salt is an essential nutrient for human health as it is an electrolyte and an osmotic solute which regulates the water content and fluid balance in the body, however, too much salt in one’s diet can have very negative health effects, as detailed below.i

  1. High blood pressure

As blood is pumped through the body, it exerts pressure on the vessel walls; the measure of this is blood pressure. High consumption of sodium is a risk factor that can lead to high blood pressure. Other factors would include obesity and lack of physical activity. High blood pressure for a sustained period of time can lead to other health problems, such as coronary heart disease and stroke.ii

  1. Cardiovascular disease

High salt intake can also contribute to the development of all types of diseases of the heart and blood vessels. These problems generally occur when the heart’s blood supply is reduced or blocked leading to heart failure and heart attacks. Elevated blood pressure is a risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease. This is because when blood pressure is high, the walls of blood vessels thicken to compensate, but this narrows the vessel and prevents it from carrying enough blood to the heart. Over time, this can cause heart failure, or if the thickened blood vessel walls lead to a clot forming, the clot can block the blood supply to the heart causing a heart attack.iii

  1. Stroke

Strokes are another major health problem that can be attributed to high blood pressure caused by prolonged and elevated salt consumption. Similar to a heart attack, a stroke is caused when the thickened vessel walls lead to clot formation and blood supply is cut off, reducing the flow of oxygen to the brain and causing cells to die. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel becomes blocked by a clot and a hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a vessel bursts and bleeds into the brain. The biggest risk factor for both types of strokes is high blood pressure, which can be affected by heavy salt consumption. If a major stroke occurs or there is a series of mini strokes, an individual can develop vascular dementia. This is a condition that around one in three stroke victims develop. The blocked blood vessel that results from the stroke ultimately leads to the loss of brain function that can affect memory, thinking, language, judgement and behavior.iv

  1. Kidney disease

Salt intake can also have a major impact on the functionality of the kidneys. Essentially, kidneys use osmosis to draw water out of your blood by pulling it from the bloodstream and across a wall of cells and collecting it in a channel that leads to the bladder and it is removed from the body as urine. This process uses a balance of sodium and potassium to get the fluid across the cells. Consuming too much salt raises the amount of sodium in one’s bloodstream and destroys the balance which ultimately impairs the ability of one’s kidneys to remove the water. The extra fluid can further elevate high blood pressure, which strains the vessels leading to the kidneys. This strain causes damage over time by reducing their ability to filter out toxins and waste products and allowing them to build up in the body. Ultimately, this can lead to kidney failure.v

  1. Stomach cancer

A high salt diet can also increase the risk for stomach cancer. Excessive salt can damage the stomach lining by causing inflammation that leads to ulcers. It can also make the stomach more vulnerable to the effects of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. This can contribute to the development of stomach cancer.vi

  1. Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a common condition that many elderly people develop in which the bones thin, making them brittle and susceptible to breaking easily. Calcium is stored in our body’s bones and contributes to their strengthening. High sodium levels can cause the calcium to be leached from the bones and excreted through urine. This contributes to the worsening of osteoporosis. High blood pressure that results from salt consumption further speeds up this process.vii

  1. Diabetes

Once again, high blood pressure can put an individual at greater risk for developing or exacerbating diabetes. It is recommended that a diabetic individual consume no more than 2300 mg daily, while the average American consumes 3400 mg.viii

Long-term, excessive use of salt in one’s diet can have very detrimental effects on one’s health. However, salt is also a very essential part of our diet. If too little salt is consumed it can cause hyponatremia, which results in brain swelling. Symptoms of this include altered personality, lethargy, confusion, twitching or spasms, seizures, coma, and even death. So, it would appear that salt is only bad when consumed in excess. A balanced intake is necessary for health.ix

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References :


[0]i Salt. (n.d.). On Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt
[1]ii Why is salt bad for our health? (n.d.). On Consensus Action on Salt & Health. Retrieved from http://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/less/Health/
[2]iii Why is salt bad for our health? (n.d.). On Consensus Action on Salt & Health. Retrieved from http://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/less/Health/
[3]iv Why is salt bad for our health? (n.d.). On Consensus Action on Salt & Health. Retrieved from http://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/less/Health/
[4]v Salt’s effects on your body. (n.d.). On Blood Pressure UK. Retrieved from http://www.bloodpressureuk.org/microsites/salt/Home/Whysaltisbad/Saltseffects#TklJ
[5]vi Why is salt bad for our health? (n.d.). On Consensus Action on Salt & Health. Retrieved from http://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/less/Health/
[6]vii Why is salt bad for our health? (n.d.). On Consensus Action on Salt & Health. Retrieved from http://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/less/Health/
[7]viii Cutting back on sodium. (n.d.). On American Diabetes Association website. Retrieved from http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/food-tips/cutting-back-on-sodium.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/
[8]ix Health effects of salt. (n.d.). On Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_effects_of_salt