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Why a Low-Sodium Diet Might Wreck Your Health

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Medically Reviewed by Dr. James DiNicolantonio Fact Checked

Story at-a-glance -

  • Salt has been wrongly demonized as a major contributor to high blood pressure. Factors that play a significantly greater role include your sodium-to-potassium ratio, and a high-sugar, processed food diet
  • Symptoms of sodium deficiency may include muscle fatigue, spasms, cramps and heart palpitations. Such symptoms may disappear by adding more salt to your diet
  • In the 1600s, the average person was consuming up to 100 grams of salt per day from salted cod, herring and meats. Today, most people get 10 grams of salt per day or less, yet we have far higher rates of hypertension
  • Low-sodium diets may lower blood pressure. However, this reduction in blood pressure may not necessarily translate into a reduction in cardiovascular events. In fact, the reduction in blood pressure may actually be harmful by potentially increasing heart rate, as well as the risk of falls and fractures
  • Low-sodium diets can also worsen your total cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein ratio and induce insulin resistance increasing both triglycerides and insulin
  • Subpopulations that may need to monitor their salt intake are listed, as are conditions that increase your need for salt by increasing sodium loss. The benefits of salt loading before exercise are also discussed

Is salt really bad for your blood pressure? James DiNicolantonio, Pharm.D., answers this and many other questions relating to salt in his book, "The Salt Fix: Why the Experts Got It All Wrong — and How Eating More Might Save Your Life." DiNicolantonio is a doctor of pharmacy, and it was during his work as a community pharmacist that his interest in this culinary staple emerged.

"[P]atients … were put on this low-salt diet and were having all these symptoms like muscle fatigue, muscle spasms, cramps and heart palpitations. They said their doctors ordered them to not add salt to their food because they have high blood pressure. Yet they were suffering from all these new symptoms … symptoms of salt deficiency.


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