I've always been a bit of a skeptic. While I don't typically use the exact words - prove it to me, when every I read/hear or discuss the next thing that will decrease/increase my lifespan, re-grow hair or magically increase fuel mileage by up to 80% - I instinctively question the message and/or messenger. For good reason. Often they're wrong... or or worse... lying to promote so agenda.
I'm not sure why, but for some reason I don't remember questioning the; too much salt is bad for you, line we've all heard a thousand or more times.
My Grandfather used to love McDonald's and White Castle hamburgers. "Two hamburgers and a coffee" was his typical order whenever he and I would sneak out for lunch. My Grandmother had a great sense of smell. Without fail, she'd know where we've been for lunch as soon as we walked in the door. She would begin harping on my Grandfather; "all that salt on those hamburgers will wreck havoc on your blood pressure. You know that".
But as it turns out, much about what we've all been told about salt (and it's supposed negative health effects) is unsubstantiated by medical research... surprise!
ICI/PRO contributor Ben Greenfield has an exhaustive article on his BenGreenfieldfitness.com site that does a great job deconstructing the salt is bad myth and could provide answers to questions from members : Is That Grain Of Salt Really Killing Your Insides?
The Facts About Salt
Let”™s begin with the 4 most important things you need to know right now:
1. There is zero evidence to support a drastic reduction in sodium intake.
A recent review of a study by the Institute of Medicine failed to identify a health benefit associated with sodium intakes less than 2,300 mgs/day, and concluded that there is insufficient evidence to determine whether sodium intakes of less than 2,300 mgs are harmful or beneficial.
In other words, there”™s no evidence that a salt reduction will result in a health benefit (nor do we do know the potential consequences of reducing the salt content of food).
2. Reducing sodium intake can have unintended health risks.
But here”™s what we actually do know: recent research highly suggests that low sodium intake can indeed increase health risks. Here are some of the unintended consequences of drastic reduction in sodium intake:
- Insulin resistance (diabetes)
- Metabolic syndrome
- Increased cardiovascular mortality and readmissions
- Cognition loss in neonates and older adults
- Unsteadiness, falls, fractures
- Lifelong appetite cravings for salt
Despite this extreme lack of supporting evidence, here in America the Center for Disease Control and the New York Department of Health appear to remain intensely committed to their efforts to have us all consume less than 2,300mg/day, and for nearly half of us to consume less than 1,500mg/day.
Read the rest at: bengreenfieldfitness.com
The part about Insulin resistance (diabetes) really jumped out at me. My Grandfather developed Adult Onset Diabetes in his late 70's - he lived to 86. So I have as they say a "history" of this in my family = prefer not to get it myself. My lifestyle is nothing like his was; I'm very active vs. his sedentary / inactive life. My memory is that he was on a regiment to control his blood pressure (more history) most of his life. As elevated pressure was thought to be tied to salt intake, his doctor had prescribed a very low sodium diet. The guy almost never ate sweets, never snacked, overate or ate out at a restaurant. His wife cooked 97% of everything he ever consumed, always very low salt.
So now I'm left thinking; could his very limited salt intake, over a substantial portion of his life, have been a cause of his diabetes?
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And I’ll go a step further, fat is good for you! Mind you that not all fats are created equal, and some (processed) fats are better left alone.
There are way too many unhealthy myths and fads surrounding what we eat. The bigger picture here is that we all should be cooking more at home and relying a lot less on heavily processed foods from the stores and restaurants.
Good article, John. High blood pressure and other of the various signs of insulin resistance have more to do with highly insulin-triggering carbs in the diet. There are, as I recall, at least 4 or 5 mechanisms by which high levels of insulin secretion trigger hypertension — the most often-heard reason for avoiding salt.
I’ve also read that excessively low sodium can cause insulin resistance, so your grandfather’s diabetes could well have been the result of his sodium restriction.
Amen to that Alan and thanks Joan.
It’s hard to really know, isn’t it? Living to 86 is doing very well for a man. I just wish he could have enjoyed his hamburger without having to face the consequences when he got home.
Word of caution, John ….. be wary of what you read in the papers and on internet websites (even ones that oftentimes have good advice)…
Studies that are touted as showing this sort of “evidence” (that Science By Press Release thing I’m always going on about) are usually headline news just because they stand out as going against the current consensus etc. ….. and are usually misrepresentations of study findings that so-called health and science writers repeat without ever doing their due diligence. Then everyone and their uncle pick it up and run with it. Hence the appearance that *The Experts* don’t know or are always changing their minds and that we should get our nutritional advice from the likes of Gary Taubes…..
In actuality, the studies that have shown this phenom have the subjects on such low sodium diets (as measured by urinalysis….not self reporting) that I fancy it’d be impossible for the most diligent, orthorexic person to be complying voluntarily!! So although, your GD was on a “low salt” diet, I doubt it resembled what was tested in the various studies that have generated this meme. The reality is that strict control might not be “necessary” for everyone as some folk are more sensitive than others, but it’s a stretch to start blaming advice to restrict sodium intake to a reasonable level as being responsible for T2D.
FWIW, T2D, is a hugely (say, HUGELY) complex metabolic condition ….. such that anyone who reduces it to a short list of easy to understand “causes” has likely got it wrong themselves. Underlying pathology is closely linked to mitochondrial dysfunction and has a strong genetic component that can be demonstrated in close relatives of folk with T2D who’re lean but sedentary. One of the best interventions early on is …… endurance training.
Another FWIW …. another risk factor for adult onset diabetes is living to a ripe enough age to qualify as a “real adult”. Then it’s oftentimes a function of things just wearing out and hormone production decreasing etc.
Good call Viv. We’ll never know how low his sodium intake really was because he and John snuck out as often as they could to grab burgers!
John’s grandma would always take her own sandwich when she would submit to going along.She lived into her 90’s, but her later years didn’t have much quality to them. So, I’ll take a few more burgers, and fewer years.
Alan- so true. I’m much happier now that I’m eating (guilt free I might add) avocado, coconut oil, nuts, etc. In moderation, of course.