Essays, poems and Stories of an African-American

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Table Salt From a Public Health Perspective

Jane is someone who has never had her barbecued and roast beef without salt. She would use all sorts of expletives or profanities loudly enough if you dare hide salt. She asks in her husky whisky scarred voice out loud: "what would we be without salt?"

In humans, the craving for salt can be traced to the taste buds. Yes, you read right. The sweet, sour, bitter,salty taste buds.

But, what is this salt (table salt)?

Salt is Sodium Chloride [NaCl]. Sodium'schemical symbol comes from the Latin word for sodiumcarbonate, natrium. DiscoverySodium was first isolated by Sir Humphry Davy in 1807 using electrolysis of caustic soda, although it had been long recognized in compounds. Sodium is a soft, bright, silvery metal that floats on water ( for more see: Google).

First and foremost, a person needs from 1,500mg-2,500mg of salt daily (31-41% of a teaspoon). "People need about one and one-half teaspoons of salt per day. Anything less triggers a cascade of hormones to recuperate sodium from the waste stream, hormones that make people vulnerable to heart disease and kidney problems" (Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation ¹, 1991).

In one study by Harvard researchers, a low-salt diet lead to an increase in insulin resistance, which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes -- and the change occurred in just seven days! Other research has found salt restriction may play a role in:
  • Increased death rates among people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes
  • Increased falls and broken hips, and decreased cognitive abilities, among the elderly
  • Giving birth to babies of low birth weight
  • Poor neurodevelopmental function in infants

There is also a condition in which you have too little sodium is known as hyponatremia, where your body's fluid levels rise and your cells begin to swell. This swelling can cause a number of health problems, from mild to severe. At its worst, hyponatremia can be life threatening, leading to brain swelling, coma and death. But mild to moderate hyponatremia has more subtle effects that you or your health-care provider may not even connect with a sodium-deficiency problem, including some or all the following:
1. Nausea
2. Loss of appetite
3. vomiting
4. Loss of energy
5. Muscle weakness
6. Spasms
7. Headaches
8. Fatigue
9. Confusion
10. Incontinence
11. Mood changes
12. Poor clotting of exposed wounds/ulcers

We do need this salt in the right quantities.
A high salt intake and high blood pressure can cause too much calcium to be excreted by the kidneys into the urine, leading to a buildup of calcium and therefore kidney stones. They can be very painful and in some cases can lead to kidney disease.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day — or 1,500 mg if you're age 51 or older, or if you are black, or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
Salt helps maintain the fluid in our blood cells and is used to transmit information in our nerves and muscles. It is also used in the uptake of certain nutrients from our small intestines. The body cannot make salt and so we are reliant on food to ensure that we get the required intake.

Jane has a point in as far as appetite goes. But perhaps appetite is a motivation for us not to deprive the body of the other uses of salt. Salt in the right amounts, helps in metabolism. However, in very low or high amounts it can be a risk.

1. FDA Warned on Dangers of Salt Restriction

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