Why Too Much Salt is Harmful for Your Health

Why Salt is Bad For Your Health

Salt is an essential ingredient of diets and enhances its taste and flavour. From time immemorial, it has been used as a preservative. All food substances contain sodium, but added salt is the major source of sodium in our diet. Sodium is primarily involved in the maintenance of water balance and equilibrium. it also plays an important role in electrophysiological functions the cell. Humans have powerful inbuilt mechanisms for maintaining blood pressure even on minimal sodium intake.

Sodium is rapidly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and a positive balance is achieved on intakes just above minimum requirements. Sodium requirements depend on its losses through urine, faeces and sweat. Sodium loss through sweat varies according to climatic conditions. high ambient temperatures and vigorous physical exercise increase sodium loss through sweat. Even after 6 hours of hard physical labour, which may generate 3 litres of sweat, the requirement of sodium chloride may not be more than 8g/ day.

  • Sodium is the major electrolyte in the extracellular fluid.
  • Sodium plays an important role in nerve conduction and fluid balance in the body.
  • Maintenance of sodium balance depends on kidney function.
  • High intake of salt is associated with high blood pressure and stomach cancer.
  • All foods contain sodium. The sodium requirements can be met with the moderate salt intake.
  • Sodium intake needs to be balanced by potassium can be met with a moderate salt intake.

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Sources of Sodium

Sodium content in natural diets, in general, will be about 300-400 mg a day. Cereals, pulses, vegetables, milk, animal and seafood are the major sources of sodium. Indian data indicate that daily salt consumption ranges from less than 5g to 30 g in different states with almost 40% of families consuming above 10 g. Since the taste for salt is an acquired habit, salt consumption should be restricted from an early age. Preserved foods such as pickles, sun-dried foods, and canned foods contribute to higher intakes of salt.

What are the health problems associated with excessive salt/disadvantages of too much salt

There is a strong association between salt intake and blood pressure. Prevalence of hypertension is low in the population consuming less than 3 g salt per day. The usual increase in blood pressure with age is also not seen with such intakes. The amount of salt consumed is reflected in urinary sodium. Drastic restriction of dietary salt decreases the risk of hypertension. However, this effect is not uniform as only 20-30% of the population is salt sensitive. Potassium-rich foods such as fresh vegetables and fruits decrease blood pressure. In fact, it is a ratio of sodium to potassium in the diet which is important. Salt intakes higher than 10 g have been identified as a risk factor for hypertension. Besides increasing blood pressure, excessive salt may also affect stomach mucosa and result in atrophic gastritis and gastric cancer.

Higher sodium intake leads to greater calcium excretion which may result in the reduction in bone density. Existing evidence reveals a dangerous impact of high salt intake on blood pressure, blood vessels, bones and gastrointestinal tract. Salt intake in our population generally exceeds the requirement. It should not be more than 7g per day. In India, salt has been identified as a vehicle for food fortification since it is the only commodity which is universally consumed.

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Salt Facts

  • Restrict the intake of added salt from an early age.
  • Develop a taste for foods/diets low in salt.
  • Restrict intake of preserved and processed foods like papads, pickles, sauces, ketchup, salted biscuits, chips, cheese and fish.
  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits that provide adequate potassium.
  • Use always iodized salt.

Sodium Benefits and Side Effects

  • Iodine is required for the information on thyroid hormones.
  • Thyroid hormones are necessary for growth and development.
  • Iodine deficiency leads to goitre ( enlargement of thyroid gland )
  • Lack of iodine in the water and diet is the main cause of iodine deficiency disorders.
  • Iodine deficiency during pregnancy results in stillbirths, abortions and cretinism.
  • Use of iodized salt ensures adequate iodine intake.

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