I don’t need to tell you that salt is delicious and act as a sweetener which for real is actually good to be added to our diet. But taking in too much salt usually by eating too many processed foods or salt packed home food may have serious health consequences and increase your risk of several chronic diseases. Consuming too much salt is really not adviceable and to be precise, adults should avoid eating over 6g or around about a teaspoon of salt a day. The World Health Organization (WHO), however estimates that the current global average intake of salt is between 9g and 12g per day. Salt is in fact sodium chloride and is a necessary mineral for a healthy human body. The fact that salt is made up of sodium chloride can actually make food labels quite confusing. This is because sometimes the labels will only give the amount of sodium in the food and not the amount of salt.
Why Is Salt Needed In The Body?
Besides acting as flavor to our food salt actually plays important roles in the body. It is the most common source of sodium and chloride ions, which cannot be made by the body itself and so need to be consumed through our food intake. Sodium plays a significant role in the body. In particular, it regulates volumes of fluid in the body. It also aids the uptake of various other nutrients into cells. The normal pH or acid-base level, of the blood is also influenced by the sodium levels in the body. All in all, these cellular level processes mean that sodium can play a larger role in transmitting nerve signals in the body and aiding muscular contraction. You, perhaps, may have even noticed sodium’s role in the latter, if you have ever experienced cramp after exercising and sweating. Chloride ions also play important roles within the body. They, like sodium, are involved with influencing fluid movements and pH levels in the body. Furthermore, chloride ions are important in digestion; for the stomach contains a naturally produced acidic fluid, which is partly made of hydrochloric acid. This acidic fluid, to which chloride ions contribute, plays an essential role in digestion.
Effect Of Eating Too Much Salt
If salt plays such important roles in the body, then why is it bad to have too much of it? Well because it plays such crucial roles in the body, salt is also very good at having powerful negative effects too. In fact, a diet high in salt has been linked to several conditions.
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
There is lots of different evidence supporting a link between high salt intake and high blood pressure. It is thought that having high levels of sodium in the body causes a decrease in the synthesis of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is an arteriolar vasodilator. This means that it causes the blood vessels to widen, reducing the resistance the blood experiences as it flows. Sodium is thought to do this by increasing the levels of a molecule called asymmetric dimethyl L-arginine. This molecule is an inhibitor of nitric oxide production, and thus sodium indirectly causes the reduction of nitric oxide biosynthesis. Overall then, this means that there is less nitric oxide. Consequently, the blood vessels are not as wide and thus the blood experiences more resistance, causing higher blood pressure.
High salt intake has also been linked to osteoporosis, a condition that causes weakening of the bones making them more susceptible to fractures. Salt is proposed to affect bones by causing increased calcium excretion in urine. Calcium is, of course, very important in bones. In fact, 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in our bones. Thus, loss of calcium, through excessive excretion, is bad for your bones.
Stomach Or Gastric Cancer
Although salt is necessary in the production of stomach acid; it seems too much salt can actually be bad news for the stomach. Excessive salt consumption has been linked to stomach cancer. Although the molecular basis has not yet been confirmed and not all results of epidemiological studies were in agreement, there has been a general trend observed that high salt consumption was correlated with increased risk of stomach cancer.
How Can We Reduce Our Salt Intake?
Our body need a small amount of sodium to function properly. Sodium helps you retain water. In moderation, that’s a good thing, because it helps keep our blood pressure up and in a healthy range. It also helps to have fluid outside our cells called extracellular fluid which is crucial to their function. Small amounts of sodium also help our nerve cells communicate with each other, which means sodium is required for brain function. Given all the negative effects high salt intake can cause, you may wish to reduce your own salt intake. You may find this is actually harder than you initially think. The difficulty in reducing your salt intake arises due to the fact that a significant amount of the salt we consume has already been added to our food at the manufacturing stage. Thus, not only do we, ourselves, have to try to reduce our salt intake but we also need to convince the food manufacturing industry to do same.
Clearly, moderation is key for getting the benefits of sodium without all the risk. Aim for a sodium intake of 1,500 milligrams per day but don’t exceed 2,300 milligrams daily. The easiest way to reduce your salt intake is to steer clear of processed foods even ones that seem relatively healthy like soups. Instead, make meals yourself using fresh ingredients and limit the amount of salt you add to your food.