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Salt, we hardly know ye
Old 06-04-2012, 03:12 PM   #1
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Salt, we hardly know ye

Yesterday's NYT had an article by Gary Taubes (author of "Why We Get Fat") on salt consumption....and how little we really know....

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/03/op...l?pagewanted=1

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Old 06-04-2012, 05:11 PM   #2
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It is incredible how something as simple as this has not been resolved. Though not unbelievable. I remember years ago admissions that salt only affected blood pressure in something like 30% of the population. Seemed crazy to put out a blanket recommendation for everyone to lower their salt intake. Since my BP was fine, I pretty much ignored it.
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Old 06-04-2012, 05:14 PM   #3
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Salt is good for me and overly strenuous exercise is bad?

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Old 06-04-2012, 05:58 PM   #4
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I love Taubes. "Why we get fat" is worth reading.

Everyone is different though, so no diet is good for everyone. Two of my kids are on a high-salt, high-fat diet, DH does better with less salt, and two of us follow Taubes' diet.
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Old 06-04-2012, 07:14 PM   #5
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Whew! I always ignored the cut down on salt recommendations because I like salt and don't have high bood pressure. Now I can pretend I was just ahead of the game knowledge-wise.
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Old 06-04-2012, 07:45 PM   #6
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Interesting. Here are the dramatic results I've gotten from reducing salt, increasing potassium, and taking magnesium and calcium supplements:

BloodPressure5.jpg

Since I'm using a shotgun approach, I still don't know which of those things made a difference. After a while I'll selectively eliminate the different minerals and see what happens.

According to this book, many studies that don't show significant decreases in BP either (1) didn't increase potassium (the ratio of potassium to sodium is important), (2) didn't decrease sodium enough, or (3) didn't wait long enough. It takes a while for the reduction to make a difference.

There really are studies supporting both sides. Perhaps the only way to know is to test for yourself. If I can assume that a lower BP predicts less chance of CVD, then I'm in good shape.

But reducing salt is a royal PIA! So many things have lots of salt.

A good hedge-your-bets strategy might be to just switch to something like Pansalt -- I'll bet most of you won't taste any difference.
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Old 06-04-2012, 07:52 PM   #7
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Excellent!

I think I'll file this one next to the "red wine is good for you" articles and make sure I don't cause myself any stress by reading anything else that comes out on this subject.
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Old 06-04-2012, 08:14 PM   #8
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Whew! I always ignored the cut down on salt recommendations because I like salt and don't have high bood pressure. Now I can pretend I was just ahead of the game knowledge-wise.
+1 I have a friend who loves salt but has totally cut it out due to high BP. I love salt and my BP is normal. I told him that i'm still using salt until my BP rises and if it does then I'll cut back on the salt. Hope it never happens though.
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Old 06-04-2012, 08:28 PM   #9
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There is so much to know, and without knowing the detals of each study, including the distribution of outcomes, not just averages, we will never know. Hard to doubt Al's experience though, as he is not trying to do science but to improve his health.

Taubes' tale of replacing lost sodium from summer football practice is certainly true but beside the point. You can sweat out 5 pounds in practice in August-of course you have to replace electrolytes. I remember football practice- pails of little red pills that we were supposed to take after every workout. But the workouts would leave our uniforms, pads, socks and even cleats soaked with sweat. What does that have to do with modestly active men or women who when they do exercise in warm weather are mostly in a climate controlled environment?

I have one type of reasoning that makes me think that in most conditions, for most industrial age people, we eat too much salt for our own good. Stop and think- salt is the poster boy for an additive. It would surely be odd, at a time when we are constantly being warned not to use supplements or additives, if salt is the only additive and supplement that we need. As omnivores, we get lots of sodium from our food, without any salt used in preparation. And I am not including the salt used in processing of things like cheeses and cured meat-just eat a nice beefsteak with no salt, and you still get plenty sodium from it.

I don't know enough prehistory to comment, but Boyd Eaton, a radiologist at Emory University and I think the first person to use the term paleo-diet, claims that many many pre-agricultural peoples used very little salt, and in fact in paleolithic times it was not even a major item of trade.

Certainly neolithic people used salt, and anyone who could get their hands on it used it to cure meat and fish. But at least some American plains indians cured buffalo strips without using salt- just smoked it in the dry air. I have personally made venison and elk jerky without salt, just smoke, but only in dry Eastern Washington. It kept fine, at least as long as we needed it to last.

Herbivores seek out mineral licks, and NaCl is part of these, but herbovores get almost 0 salt from their food. I have noticed that in early morning when I stick my head out of the tent, deer will often be browsing where I peed the night before. I figure that is for salt.

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Old 06-04-2012, 09:18 PM   #10
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Interesting. Here are the dramatic results I've gotten from reducing salt, increasing potassium, and taking magnesium and calcium supplements:
As I understand the article I think he doesn't controvert that there is evidence that reducing salt reduces blood pressure but there isn't necessarily good evidence that this reduced blood pressure actually lowers risk of death or other adverse events. Further, reduced salt intake has been associated in some studies with higher rates of heart disease. I don't know enough about this to have an opinion but did find it interesting.
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Old 06-05-2012, 07:20 AM   #11
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Putting what Al and Ha said together I would guess that we probably have excess salt in our diets and that it probably effects BP in susceptible people. The answer for people with high BP would be to eat naturally (Ha's Paleo references) without adding salt or, if you have a taste for it ala Al, use Pansalt or other approaches to get your taste fix without so much NACL. It is like low carb - some of us still like sweets and use erythritol and other fake sweeteners to fake our way to the fix. If we can wean ourselves away from the sweet need entirely we would probably be better off. In the meantime, sweeteners/Pansalt are likely much better than the alternative (weight/high BP).
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Old 06-05-2012, 10:37 AM   #12
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From the article:
WHY have we been told that salt is so deadly? Well, the advice has always sounded reasonable. It has what nutritionists like to call “biological plausibility.” Eat more salt and your body retains water to maintain a stable concentration of sodium in your blood. This is why eating salty food tends to make us thirsty: we drink more; we retain water. The result can be a temporary increase in blood pressure, which will persist until our kidneys eliminate both salt and water.



The scientific question is whether this temporary phenomenon translates to chronic problems: if we eat too much salt for years, does it raise our blood pressure, cause hypertension, then strokes, and then kill us prematurely?

The Moore book argues convincingly that there is something else going on: namely that a high sodium/potassium ratio causes problems at the cellular level, which are not good for you by themselves, and which also result in high blood pressure.

I'm going to resist the temptation to check out all the different studies and make a decision, and instead assume that a BP of 120/80 is much better for me than a BP of 145/90, and stay with my current course until Jan 2013. I will then increase sodium, and see what happens.

One other comment: several times in the past, I decreased my salt intake, didn't see any changes, and concluded that I was not salt sensitive (yay!). It wasn't until I decreased it a lot, and increased the other electrolytes that I saw changes.
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Old 06-05-2012, 10:45 AM   #13
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I don't even have a salt shaker at home, so I never really thought about salt. But then last year, I started actually reading about the contents of what eat. No wonder I don't need a salt shaker, the food I eat already has an incredible amount of salt in it. It would take a lot of discipline to change what I eat to remove the salt. I hope I never have to.
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Old 06-05-2012, 10:55 AM   #14
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Yes, it's amazing. 151% (3.6 grams) of the RDA in one slice of corned beef, for example. If someone else makes the food for you, you can be sure it will have a lot of salt in it.

I have some hot dogs soaking in water in the fridge right now. I split them down the middle first, and soak for two days with one change of water. Note that although the hot dogs (Hebrew National) have no artificial coloring, the water gets very red/orange -- I assume from the nitrites. As with bacon, this removes the NaCl, which I then replace with KCl.
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Old 06-05-2012, 05:32 PM   #15
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The food news just keeps getting better. Salt, coffee, dark chocolate, bacon, butter, meat, healthy oils, avocados--have all been redeemed. The current public enemies seem to be sugar, white carbs (even whole wheat products), soda, and processed foods. What a revolution in thinking from when I was growing up.
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Old 06-05-2012, 09:43 PM   #16
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I don't even have a salt shaker at home, so I never really thought about salt. But then last year, I started actually reading about the contents of what eat. No wonder I don't need a salt shaker, the food I eat already has an incredible amount of salt in it. It would take a lot of discipline to change what I eat to remove the salt. I hope I never have to.
Yes, it is when you eat out or eat frozen foods or other prepared foods that you get hit with the sodium. I remember I went to a restaurant meal awhile back that was fine in terms of calories and was relatively "healthy" food...but when I looked up the nutritional info later I was stunned to see it had over 3000g of sodium!

When tracking my food I find that I tend to eat between about 2000g and 3000g of sodium a day -- more on days I eat out. But, my blood pressure is usually about 118/80 or lower so I don't worry too much about it.
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Old 06-05-2012, 09:58 PM   #17
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Yes, it is when you eat out or eat frozen foods or other prepared foods that you get hit with the sodium. I remember I went to a restaurant meal awhile back that was fine in terms of calories and was relatively "healthy" food...but when I looked up the nutritional info later I was stunned to see it had over 3000g of sodium!

When tracking my food I find that I tend to eat between about 2000g and 3000g of sodium a day -- more on days I eat out. But, my blood pressure is usually about 118/80 or lower so I don't worry too much about it.
I usually am pretty good for breakfast and lunch, but Im all about those frozen meals for dinner. Factoring in I eat more than the portion size they suggest, Im close to 4000g I imagine. I might as well go buy a salt block from the local farm and home and just lick it for dinner!
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Old 06-05-2012, 10:46 PM   #18
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I hope you guys are talking about mg (milligram) of sodium, as 3000g of sodium is over 6lbs!
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Old 06-06-2012, 10:27 AM   #19
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But, my blood pressure is usually about 118/80 or lower so I don't worry too much about it.
You're probably right. But, just to pass on some things from the Moore book; the author feels that high salt consumption:

1. Can cause problems (e.g. increased CVD risk) even it if it doesn't raise blood pressure.

2. May cause hypertension in the future. That is, your BP may creep up, and later on it will be harder to bring it down by reducing salt.

He might be taking things too far with those ideas.

There's probably a good middle ground strategy here without going overboard as I have. If you try a salt substitute and find it indistinguishable from real salt, it's a slam dunk to use it.
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Old 06-06-2012, 10:41 AM   #20
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Salt is good for me and overly strenuous exercise is bad?

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