The question, “Is salt good for you?” is one that I doubt many nutritionists, cardiologists, or self-respecting family doctors would dare answer, “Yes.” Even answering a more conservative, “We don’t really know for sure,” would be sacrilegious. For the whole of my time in medicine it has been dogma that salt is a well known and understood cause of hypertension, heart failure and kidney disease and that everyone should try to limit their salt intake to the formal recommendations. Thanks to Ryan, a DrPullen.com follower, for a tip to check out a recent NY Times editorial pointing out that the widely accepted mantra that excess salt in our diets is detrimental, especially for patients with congestive heart failure, diabetes or hypertension may be wrong. Recent evidence is accumulating that challenges this assumption, and is being pooh-poohed by leaders in medicine. In my practice I have never had much luck in counseling patients to improve their blood pressure control by salt restriction. I’ve told patients that in my experience some patients are likely salt sensitive and may benefit form salt restriction, but that they are better off to focus on weight loss, exercise and to take their antihypertensive meds if needed. Maybe even this advice is excessive.
Check out the article yourself, and maybe feel less guilty when you enjoy those salted nuts:
Salt, We Misjudged You
By GARY TAUBES
Published: June 2, 2012
The first time I questioned the conventional wisdom on the nature of a healthy diet, I was in my salad days, almost 40 years ago, and the subject was salt. Researchers were claiming that salt supplementation was unnecessary after strenuous exercise, and this advice was being passed on by health reporters. All I knew was that I had played high school football in suburban Maryland, sweating profusely through double sessions in the swamp-like 90-degree days of August. Without salt pills, I couldn’t make it through a two-hour practice; I couldn’t walk across the parking lot afterward without cramping.
While sports nutritionists have since come around to recommend that we should indeed replenish salt when we sweat it out in physical activity, the message that we should avoid salt at all other times remains strong. Salt consumption is said to raise blood pressure, cause hypertension and increase the risk of premature death. This is why the Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines still consider salt Public Enemy No. 1, coming before fats, sugars and alcohol. It’s why the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has suggested that reducing salt consumption is as critical to long-term health as quitting cigarettes.
And yet, this eat-less-salt argument has been surprisingly controversial — and difficult to defend. Not because the food industry opposes it, but because the actual evidence to support it has always been so weak… read more
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