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The Danger of Too Little Salt

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Restricting salt is an easy treatment prescribed to reduce blood pressure and prevent heart problems and stroke. But restricting salt too much might be just as harmful. Read on to find out the potential health dangers of too little salt.

Salt is essential to life. Sodium is one of the most important electrolytes that work to keep the body healthy. However, high sodium intake is linked with a variety of health problems, including high blood pressure and heart problems.

Consequently, salt restriction is one of the first recommended lines of treatment for high blood pressure. But new studies have suggested that rather than further restricting salt, it may just be possible to restrict salt too much. Too little salt, just like too much, can have serious health consequences.

How Much Salt Should We Eat?

Current health guidelines recommend consuming between 1500 to 2300 mg of salt per day. However, this amount of salt may be too low for optimal health. A study from 2015 published in Circulation Research studied salt and heart studies of over 300,000 people. The researchers found that while too much salt does have health risks, too little salt also has numerous health risks.

In fact, data revealed that a dose of about 3000-5000 mg of salt daily is the real optimal level, not 1500 mg. This would result in the average person eating between one and 2.5 teaspoons of salt daily, which is about the average amount consumed by most American adults.

Of course, these findings were among healthy adults only. There is still evidence that restricting salt intake when a person has high blood pressure works quickly to lower blood pressure and improve circulation. The study authors stated that the average person does not need to worry about restricting salt consumption.

As long as you eat less than 2.5 teaspoons of salt daily, you should not have any of the adverse side effects that come from eating too much salt. However, if you eat a lot of processed foods you could be in danger of eating too much salt, as many processed foods are high in salt. If you consume a healthy diet, there is no need to worry about further salt restriction.

The Health Risks of Too Little Salt

We all know that high blood pressure and stroke risk increases with too much salt, but did you know that too little salt causes its own health risks? The following health risks are associated with too little salt consumption:

Insulin Resistance

A study from 2011 published in Metabolism found that restricting salt intake could increase insulin resistance. Insulin resistance has been linked with increased blood sugar and eventually causing type 2 diabetes. The study authors found that just one week on a low-sodium die increased a person's insulin resistance. Not all studies show the same results, so further exploration of this idea is necessary.

Increased Risk of Heart Failure

When the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet its oxygen needs it fails. When caught and treated in time, not all heart failure is fatal, but it is seriously dangerous and can quickly cause death. Although low-salt diets are thought to benefit heart health, a study from 2011 published in the American Journal of Hypertension found the opposite to be true.

In this study, individuals who were suffering from heart problems who went on a low-sodium diet were more likely to suffer heart failure. In fact, their risk of dying from heart failure increased 160 percent if they were on a low-salt diet. This study, although further study is necessary, suggests that salt may play a role in healthy heart function.

Increased Risk of Death

Diet changes are supposed to make you healthier and live longer. But a low-salt diet may not do that. Diabetics are likely to suffer strokes and heart attacks, which is why many dietary guidelines for diabetics recommend restricting salt intake. But a few studies have suggested that diabetics who are on a restricted salt diet are more likely to die. Two different studies published in Diabetes Care in 2011 found the same results for both type 2 diabetes and type 1 diabetes. Higher Cholesterol Paradoxically, restricting salt intake may cause an increase in LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) and triglycerides.

A review of numerous cholesterol studies found that diets low in salt caused an increased risk for high cholesterol of up to 7 percent based on salt intake alone. Salt restriction only had a slight influence on blood pressure. No Heart Benefits The number one reason for restricting salt is to reduce blood pressure to reduce heart attack risk or stroke risk.

Strangely, a review of heart studies published in the Journal of American Medicine in 2011 found that consuming less than 3,000 mg of sodium daily resulted in an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, and heart disease. Reducing sodium had no reduction in death risk from strokes or heart attacks and only increased the risk of heart failure.

Reduced-Salt Causes Hyponatremia

Hyponatremia is a condition where there is too little salt in the blood. Symptoms include headaches, fatigue, confusion, seizures, and swelling in the brain. Hyponatremia is common in elderly adults, who often combine salt-reducing medication with low-salt diets.

Drinking too much water without accompanying salt can also trigger hyponatremia in adults and children. Salt is necessary to keep electrolytes balanced and the body functioning at optimal levels.

Symptoms of Hyponatremia
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Weakness
  • Muscle aches
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Cramps

Don't Skip All Salt

Low-salt diets do have benefits for individuals who consume more than 5,000 mg of sodium daily (somewhere in the neighborhood of five teaspoons). However, most people do not consume that much salt particularly if you eat a healthy diet. The only place where sodium can become an issue is if you consume mainly processed foods (which is unhealthy for many reasons in addition to salt content). However, if you try to maintain a healthy diet, you should not have to worry about eating too much salt. In fact, if you drink a lot of water, you may need to be more concerned about not getting enough salt.





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