Skip to content
Search AI Powered

Latest Stories

Is Salt as Bad for the Heart as We’ve Been Told? Top Scientists Say No.

Is Salt as Bad for the Heart as We’ve Been Told? Top Scientists Say No.

Researchers find that it’s not too much salt that causes health problems — it’s too little.

[DIGEST: Daily Mail, Washington Post, New York Times]

For hundreds of years, doctors have been telling their patients to reduce their salt intake, believing it caused high blood pressure that could lead to heart disease.

Turns out they were wrong.

Not only does too much sodium not cause hypertension, scientists now say, but too little salt can induce a host of puzzling health problems, from insulin resistance to dehydration.

“There is no longer any valid basis for the current salt guidelines,” said Andrew Mente, a professor at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, and co-author of a major study published last year by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Medical professionals, including the American Heart Association, recommend a daily maximum intake of 2.4 grams of sodium, or slightly less than one teaspoonful. However, Dr. James DiNicolantonio, a cardiac research scientist at Saint Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute, pointed out in a May Daily Mail op-ed that other cultures around the world eat what Americans would consider shockingly high-salt diets, yet have some of the lowest hypertension and heart disease rates in the world.

The average Korean, for example, eats more than 4 grams of sodium a day — nearly twice what American doctors recommend. However, South Korea has one of the lowest heart-disease death rates on earth.

The dangers of eating too little salt, however, are well documented. Sodium is an essential element of nearly every liquid in the human body — blood plasma, tears, lymphatic fluid and even amniotic fluid — and is necessary for transmitting nerve influences and supporting healthy brain cells. Without sufficient amounts of salt, the brain is thought to produce dangerous hormones leading to everything from reduced sex drive and insulin resistance to dehydration and weight gain.

An April paper published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation detailed decades of research in favor of repealing low-salt recommendations. The findings included two life-simulation studies performed by the Russian space program on the Mir space station, which tracked cosmonauts’ sodium intake. The more recent simulation, in 2006, had the cosmonauts eating 12 grams of salt per day — five times the current recommendation — followed by 9 grams per day, and then 6 grams, each for a period of 28 days.

Scientists then measured the cosmonauts’ urine volume and blood sodium levels, and were shocked to find that the amount of sodium retained by their bodies was not associated with the amount of urine they produced — the crew was actually drinking less water with the extremely-high-salt diet.

“There was only one way to explain this phenomenon,” said Dr. Jens Titze, a kidney specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and co-author of the JCI paper. “The body most likely had generated or produced water when salt intake was high.”

Titze repeated the experiment with laboratory mice and found that the mice were indeed less thirsty with the extremely-high-sodium diet — because increased levels of glucocorticoid hormones stimulated by salt had broken down fat and muscle in their bodies, creating water and resulting in weight loss.

Conversely, Dr. DiNicolantoniofound through his research that low-sodium diets stimulated weight gain through increased sugar cravings and “hidden cellular semi-starvation,” which results from the decreased supply of fuel to cells.

“The work suggests that we really do not understand the effect of sodium chloride on the body,” said Dr. Melanie Hoenig, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “These effects may be far more complex and far-reaching than the relatively simple laws that dictate movement of fluid, based on pressures and particles.”

More from News

Kit Connor
Karwai Tang/WireImage/GettyImages

Kit Connor Is Rumored To Be Top Choice For Gay MCU Superhero—And 'Heartstopper' Fans Are So Into It

Fans of Heartstopper were absolutely chuffed and crossing their fingers after hearing rumors that British actor Kit Connor was being considered to play a known LGBTQ+ superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The 20-year-old has been acting since he was just 8 in numerous TV and film projects, including roles in the 2018 films The Mercy, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. He also portrayed a teenaged Elton John in 2019's Rocketman and voiced Pantalaimon in the HBO fantasy series His Dark Materials.

Keep ReadingShow less
yellow smiley face balloons
Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

People Explain Which Things Massively Improved Their Mental Health

It wasn't that long ago that mental health was only spoken of in hushed whispers due to ignorance and stigma.

But with education and awareness efforts, more people are paying attention to their own mental health and that of the people they care about.

Keep ReadingShow less

People Who Turned Down A Marriage Proposal Explain Why They Said 'No'

Keep ReadingShow less
Screenshot of J.D. Vance

JD Vance Got Laughs With A Cringey 'Political Violence' Joke During His RNC Speech

Former President Donald Trump's running mate J.D. Vance was criticized for appearing to make light of the recent assassination attempt on Trump's life during his speech accepting the vice presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention.

At one point, Vance joked about "political violence" between Ohio and Michigan supporters while discussing some of his life experiences before officially starting his political career with a successful 2022 Senate campaign.

Keep ReadingShow less
Screenshots of Kamala Harris and J.D. Vance

Kamala Harris Calls Out JD Vance For 'What He Didn't Say' During RNC Speech In Epic Takedown

In a fiery speech to supporters in North Carolina, Vice President Kamala Harris called out what J.D. Vance—former President Donald Trump's freshly selected running mate—"didn't say" in his speech accepting the VP nomination on Night 3 of the Republican National Convention.

Amid much talk about key conservative issues like immigration, the ongoing border crisis, and "law and order," he did not once mention what the GOP has explicitly laid out and is now attempting to distance itself from: Project 2025.

Keep ReadingShow less