Is a diet low in salt as harmful to health as consuming too much?


In 2017, a video of Turkish chef Nusret Gökçe, known as Salt Bae, seasoned a steak, racked up millions of hits on the internet.

In the recording, Gökçe puts his hand in the shape of a swan and throws coarse grains of salt, almost with disdain, into a huge piece of meat.

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Despite the warnings that can harm our health, we are obsessed with salt.

But studies that point in the opposite direction are gaining ground.

The salt is composed of sodium and chloride ions. In 2.5 grams of salt, there is approximately 1 gram of sodium.

This substance is essential for the body to keep the fluids in balance, carry oxygen and nutrients and allow the nerves to be stimulated with electricity.

Cheese and almonds

Blue cheese has more salt than sea water.

Experts recommend that adults consume no more than 6 grams of salt per day.

But only a quarter of our daily intake comes from the salt we add to the food.

The rest is hidden in the food we buy, such as bread, sauces, soups and some cereals.

In addition, in food labels, manufacturers only mention sodium, not salt, which may make us think that we are consuming a smaller amount of that seasoning than we actually consume.

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"The general public is not aware of this, and simply thinks sodium and salt are the same," says nutritionist May Simpkin.

Serious risks

Experts agree that the evidence against salt is convincing.

According to research, consuming too much salt causes high blood pressure, which can lead to strokes and heart disease.


A large cylinder of popcorn (about 250 grams) may contain about 5 grams of salt.

Too much salt over a long period of time can cause chronic hypertension, known as hypertension, which causes 62% of all strokes and 49% of coronary heart disease, according to the World Health Organization.

A meta-analysis of 13 studies published over 35 years found a 17% increased risk of cardiovascular disease and a 23% higher risk of stroke consume another 5 grams of salt per day.

Salt reduction

As expected, reducing salt intake may have the opposite effect, as suggested by an analysis of data collected over eight years, by Francesco Cappuccio, professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of Warwick, UK. .

Miso soup

A cup of miso soup contains 2.7 grams of salt.

The results showed that a decrease in salt intake of 1.4 grams per day probably contributed to a drop in blood pressure.

This reduction, in turn, led to a 42% reduction in fatal strokes and a 40% reduction in deaths related to heart disease.

There is more evidence in other countries.

After the Japanese government launched a campaign to persuade people to consume less salt in the late 1960s, intake decreased from 13.5 to 12 grams per day.

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During the same period, the blood pressure of Japanese people declined and death from stroke was reduced by 80%.

Sushi Nigiri

Two pieces of sushi nigiri contain about 0.5 grams of salt, but one tablespoon of soy sauce adds about 2.2 grams, making up a total of 2.7 grams of salt.

In Finland, daily salt consumption dropped from 12 grams in the late 1970s to just 9 grams in 2002, and there was a 75-80% reduction in stroke deaths and heart disease over the same period.

Personal Differences

But researchers also conclude that it is difficult to completely separate the effects of salt reduction from certain lifestyles.

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Those who are more aware of their salt intake are more likely to eat healthier overall, exercise more, smoke and drink less.

There are very few randomized long-term studies comparing people who eat a lot of salt with others who eat very little due to funding requirements and ethical implications.


Turkey and beef have about 1.5 grams of salt per serving. Two slices of bread can provide another 0.6 grams.

Another complicating factor is that the effects of salt consumption on blood pressure and heart health differ from one individual to another.

According to studies, our salt sensitivity varies from person to person, depending on factors as varied as ethnicity, age, body mass index, health, and family history of hypertension.

People who are more sensitive to salt are more at risk of high blood pressure.


But now, some scientists argue that a low-salt diet is a risk factor for the development of hypertension as well as high consumption.

A meta-analysis found a link between low salt intake and cardiovascular disease and death.

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The researchers argued that consuming less than 5.6 grams or more of 12.5 grams per day is associated with poor health outcomes.

Another study involving more than 170,000 people had similar findings: a link between "low" salt intake, less than 7.5 grams, and an increased risk of cardiovascular accidents and death in people with and without hypertension, compared with an ingestion "moderate" to 12.5 grams per day (between 1.5 and 2.5 teaspoons of salt).

Colorful cupcake

Although they taste sweeter than salty, muffins usually have about 1 gram of salt.

The study's lead author, Andrew Mente, a nutritional epidemiologist at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, concluded that reducing salt intake from high to moderate salt reduces the risk of hypertension but there are no health benefits in addition.

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Increasing your salt intake from low to moderate may also help.

"The discovery of a midpoint coincides with what would be expected of any essential nutrient … which at high levels causes toxicity and at low levels deficiencies appear," Mind says. "The ideal level is always in the middle."

But not everyone agrees.


Francesco Cappuccio, the author of the eight-year study, believes it is undisputed that consuming less salt lowers blood pressure in all people.

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He says studies that come up with different discoveries, including that of Mind, are small, include participants who are already sick and are based on erroneous data.

Sara Stanner, Science Director of the British Charitable Foundation, agrees that eating less salt reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension, as well as the risk of heart disease.

Not many people consume as low salt levels as 3 grams, an amount that some of these researches consider to be dangerously low because of the amount of salt usually present in the foods we buy.


A single slice of pizza can have 1.9 grams of salt.

Some, including Stanner, say a diet rich in potassium, found in fruits, vegetables, nuts and dairy products, can help counteract the adverse effects of salt on blood pressure.

Ceu Matthew, a professor of Health Economics at the University of Lancaster in the UK, believes we should be aware of the hidden salt in our diets.

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"Too much salt is too bad, but it does not completely eliminate it from your diet," says Matthew.

Despite studies that warn of the potential dangers of a salt-deficient diet and of individual differences in salt sensitivity, the most widespread finding of research is that salt excess definitely increases blood pressure.

You can read the original article in English on here.

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