Why the War on Salt Is Dangerous
The theory that salt is bad for you and contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease is an idea that has become more or less cemented as dogma. Alas, the war on salt has had a number of drawbacks and unintended consequences.
For starters, evidence shows having the correct potassium to sodium balance influences your risk for hypertension and heart disease to a far greater extent than high sodium alone, and the Western diet tends to be lacking in potassium.
Moreover, when lowering salt in processed foods, many manufacturers took to adding monosodium glutamate (MSG) instead — a flavor enhancer associated with a number of health problems, including obesity, headaches, fatigue and depression.
Due to its ability to overexcite neurons, MSG may even raise your risk for neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
War on Salt Is Misguided
In 2010, New York City launched the National Salt Reduction Initiative, a salt-reduction plan aimed at lowering salt in processed foods and restaurant meals by 25 percent in the next four years.
Two years later, Dr. Sean Lucan of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine wrote an article published online in the American Journal of Public Health, saying:1
“We cannot extrapolate that lowering sodium consumption would reduce cardiovascular risk or premature death. Despite assertions to the contrary, we do not know that reducing mean population sodium intake would decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease or save lives.”
At the time, Lucan told The New York Post:2
“We can’t just swallow this as fact — there’s actually debate about this. My concern is that they’re focusing on a single ingredient that the food industry is going to have to replace with something — and what they replace it with might be more damaging.”
Lucan also noted that the relationship between sodium and blood pressure is inconsistent and from a clinical standpoint, insubstantial.
Moreover, he stressed that some studies actually show a low-salt diet can worsen cardiovascular disease and raise rather than lower the risk for early death among patients at high risk of heart disease.
In addition, lowering salt intake could also decrease insulin sensitivity and have an adverse effect on blood lipids. Correctly, Lucan noted that “Refined carbohydrates are a greater enemy.”