For those who still believe that salt is healthy and that low-salt diets are “dangerous,” here’s the final nail in the coffin for salt.
First, some studies show little connection between salt consumption and blood pressure. How do you explain that? It’s simple: almost nobody in the Western world eats a truly no-salt diet. Thus, it’s impossible to see a connection, because researchers are comparing high intakes of salt to VERY high intakes of salt.
It would be like comparing the difference between smokers — those smoking one pack a day or two packs a day — and coming to the conclusion that smoking isn’t harmful because those smoking more do not have significantly worse health outcomes than those smoking “little.”
How Chimpanzees React to Salt
Here’s a study that was done, which says a lot on how salt affects health and blood pressure. (Note that I don’t approve of animal studies, but it happened, and at least in this one, no animal was sacrificed.)
Chimpanzees have a normal blood pressure of 110/70 — so the same as a healthy human.
Scientists added progressively higher amounts of salt to their diet. The smaller addition was the equivalent of what’s consumed in European countries, and the larger amount in Asian countries.
The increase in blood pressure was dramatic. It rose up to 150/90 and sometimes much higher, over the 20 months.
What Happens When You Get Chimps Off Salt
The interesting part is that it took six months for the chimp’s blood pressure to return all the way to normal once salt was removed from their diet.
How Do We Know it Applies to Humans?
It turns out that humans react exactly like chimpanzees to salt. Some people might be able to tolerate more salt due to genetic differences, but eventually salt catches up to them too.
In human populations consuming salt, blood pressure rises with age. At age 65, 70% of the population has high blood pressure! Out of the 30% of lucky individuals, 90% will develop it if they live long enough!
However, in populations that did not use salt, blood pressure remained the same throughout life.
It’s interesting that the salt advocates never mention those pre-industrial populations who never used salt and were in perfect health. If salt is so essential to health, how come it’s only been part of the human diet for 5000 years, with many hunter-gatherers never adopting it?
Remember that before the advent of civilization, almost no one had access to salt (and “salt licks” were not as common as some people would like you to believe).
Our ancestors had negligible sodium intake and massive potassium intake.
We can meet our sodium needs from our diet. A natural diet contains around 300-800 mg of sodium a day. After 800 mg of sodium, problems will likely show up.
The 1500 mg limit set by the American Heart Association is almost twice our natural limit, and yet, less than 1% of the population does not exceed it!
Most people consume around ten times what their body needs (5000 mg a day instead of 500 mg.)
Except in exceptional circumstances, most people can say goodbye to salt entirely and will only experience positive benefits as a result. And in my experience, it’s much easier to avoid salt entirely than to try limiting it.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.