December 9, 2011

Salt doesn’t cause heart disease

You’ve probably heard that limiting your salt intake will keep your heart healthy. In fact, most doctors will tell their patients with high blood pressure to keep their salt intake low. But a new study says this was the wrong advice!

A well-publicized JAMA study reported that salt does not correlate with cardiac disease or survival. In fact, lower salt excretion correlated with higher heart disease. (A low excretion means low intake, since your body will eliminate all excess salt through your kidneys.)

The researchers found that salt does raise systolic blood pressure – but it’s a weak correlation.

This study flew in the face of conventional dogma and generated a firestorm of controversy in the medical profession. Many doctors shouted that their advice was right because more salt slightly raised blood pressure. But the higher salt intake reduced disease events.

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The study followed 3,681 Europeans. The authors did not have Big Pharma financial conflicts of interest. Instead, the European Union funded it.

There was one huge weakness in this study, in my opinion. The authors had no way to know what the source of the ingested salt was. Take me, for example. I can assure you that I have a huge sodium excretion. Why? Because I ingest about one-half teaspoon of salt per day. That doesn’t include the natural salt that’s in my food (e.g., celery).

And, as you might know, my blood pressure is consistently under 100/70 (usually around 90/60). The salt I use almost every day in my homemade salad dressings is Celtic Sea Salt or Himalayan Salt. These are balanced salts containing all the other minerals in the right proportion for health. We don’t have a clue as to the source of sodium in the study population. What is clear is that the dogma of too much salt will kill you is just that – dogma.

I do not ask my patients to avoid salt, so long as it is not the kind found in standard white refined table salt, processed, fast and refined foods. Celtic (grey sea salt) and Himalayan (pink) salts provide an excellent balance of minerals and may add to your health.

I do suggest that you follow your blood pressure, as do I, if you add any kind of salt to your food, including sea salt. My friend David Brownstein, MD wrote a great treatise on salt called Salt Your Way to Health. You can find it at any bookstore.

Ref: JAMA May 4, 2011

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