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The TRUTH About Salt

Posted by Joel Marion

You may have heard that a high salt/sodium intake causes high blood pressure and should be avoided.  Well, that’s…not true. 

You see, a high sodium intake does not cause hypertension (high blood pressure).  The hormone aldosterone acts on the kidneys to conserve sodium for bodily functions; however, when sodium is consumed in high amounts, aldosterone release is blunted and any excess sodium will simply be excreted.  As a result, sodium balance remains normal over a large intake. 

Eat less of it and your body retains more; eat more and your body gets rid of what it doesn’t need.  This is the case with all apparently healthy individuals who do not already have a blood pressure condition. 

The only circumstance in which individuals may benefit by monitoring their sodium intake is if they have already been clinically diagnosed as suffering from hypertension and are also salt sensitive.  I stress “and” because only 20% of the population is salt sensitive; so for 4 out of every 5 people suffering from hypertension, lowering sodium intake isn’t going to do much, if anything at all. 

And even for those that are salt sensitive, the actual magnitude of the decrease in blood pressure as a result of the lowered intake may not even be substantial enough to warrant decreasing sodium consumption as a method to treat high blood pressure.

Now, I normally wouldn’t kick a myth when it’s down, but a high sodium intake can actually benefit athletes and fitness enthusiasts for the following reasons:

  • A higher sodium intake yields a greater overall blood volume and blood flow to the working muscles.  With increased blood flow, the amount of oxygen and nutrients delivered to the working muscles is maximized.  This is particularly important when an amino acid containing beverage is consumed prior to the workout, as more aminos will be delivered to the working muscles, resulting in greater rates of protein synthesis and recovery.  Also, increased blood flow will actually increase performance in that removal of various fatigue toxins (lactic acid, CO2, etc) will occur at a faster rate.
  • It is the responsibility of sodium to deliver potassium into the cell membrane of muscle tissue.  If not enough sodium is present, the body is forced to deliver the potassium via “active transport” across the membrane.  In this case, active transport is not the preferred method of transportation and as a result less potassium will be transported across the membrane less often. 

And yet another myth about sodium is that a high intake causes tons of water retention and a bloated appearance.  While, yes, increased sodium intake will cause some initial water retention, the retention is only temporary.  As soon as the body becomes accustomed to the higher intake, aldosterone release will be blunted and the excess water will be excreted.

So no, consuming high amounts of sodium does not cause hypertension (and is rarely effective by itself in treating the condition) and may actually a good idea if you want to optimize your workout performance.

My friend Isabel expands on the “salt myth” in this video and also shares 3 of her favorite fat burning foods:

3 Fat Burning Foods and more on sodium <——- watch here

Question or comment on today’s post?  Drop your reply in the comments section below!

Talk to you in the comments section!



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40 comments - add yours
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Wooh, I really like this post Joel. Never read this before! I always avoided putting salt on my food because I thought it wasn’t good for me.

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another mainstream medical myth blown, so good….
got more?

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I’m sorry if this is off topic, but the salt issue is related to eating popcorn and I have a question about whether a small amount of popcorn fits into the diet other than on cheat days. I’ve been on this for 6 weeks now and finding it easier and easier to manage. Not much weight loss though…about 7 lbs.

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I would also like to hear a comment about how to get iodine when you’re not using regular iodine added salt.

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@ Joel Marion:

Thanks for the references. Since they all date back to 1996/7 you have to wonder why this hasn’t come out more into public awareness.

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Telling the truth about sustaining our salt / water ratio is admirable ,, however
The real truth about letting our system go below minimum sodium levels would
directly contribute to saving lives.
Below minimum salt levels do cause increased blood pressure dangerously.
Craving for salt especially in junk food also increases obesity

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Thanks for explaining and sharing Joel, this is awesome!


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@ Pat:
seaweed is a great source of iodine

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It is important to remember the harm sodium can do if there is a deficit of potassium in the system. Without appropriate levels of potassium to move into the cells, then the sodium lays in surrounding tissues, leading to water retention in these areas (as wherever sodium goes, water goes – and without potassium, sodium will not move into the muscle cells, thus water and sodium stay in those surrounding tissues).
It is also important to remain hydrated when consuming sodium also – as without appropriate hydration in surround tissues, water will be pulled from the blood stream, increasing the risk of high blood pressure, as the heart accommodates to decreased blood volume by raising the pressure at which blood is moved throughout the body (i.e. raising the blood pressure).
Also remembering that if your veins are incompetant and cannot appropriately return blood to the heart, water retention, especially in the feet and legs, will be exacerbated by low hydration and increased sodium.

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wow! So great to learn this!!!! THANKS!

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@ jennifer:
I forgot about that source of iodine. Thanks Liz. I picked up some liquid kelp to use in water so hopefully that will help my thyroid.

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hey joel wait a minute how about the water retention that salt causes i mean i don’t want my face to go ballon after eating a ton of salt

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Thanks! It’s definitely working for me and I keep getting messages and comments that it’s working for others too, so please do give it a go. :)

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Are you certain about that?

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