by Mila McManus, MD
In our August newsletter , we questioned if sodium, or salt, is really bad for you and answered a resounding NO. Salt is important! First, the body requires sodium. Second, sodium must be understood in the context of potassium levels. And finally, not all salts are the same. Purchasing quality salt matters [e.g., Redmond’s Real Salt™, Himalayan Pink Salt from Pakistan].
This week, we continue with true, new, and surprising factoids about sodium[i] that you need to know!
Salt cravings are biologically normal, just like our thirst for water. We should pay attention to our salt cravings and respond by increasing our salt intake.
- Sugar cravings are not biologically normal, causing fat accumulation, insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, and mitochondrial damage.
- A high sugar diet increases your need for salt, and satisfying your salt cravings may be a key to kicking your sugar cravings.
- Salt restriction/depletion increases LDL and total cholesterol levels.
- Salt restriction/depletion causes insulin resistance and sugar cravings.
- Sodium is required for vitamin C absorption.
- Salt is essential for vitamins and minerals to be pushed into the bones, making them strong.
- Low sodium level results in sodium being pulled from the bones, and brings calcium and magnesium with it! This results in bone loss.
- Early humans, well before refrigeration, used salt to preserve most foods and consumed as much as 100 grams of salt without issues of cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
- [The DASH diet for hypertension recommends only 1500-2300 mg per day[ii]].
- The rise in hypertension in the early 1900’s actually parallels a reduction in salt intake.
- The salt “thermostat” regulates intake and prevents addiction to salt. However, introduction of sugar results in a definitive thirty-fold escalation in intake, with evidence of bingeing, tolerance, and structural changes in the brain in response to consuming sugar, all three criteria for addiction.
- Sugar, unlike salt, is the real villain, along with harmful industrially processed seed oils.
- When we sweat [e.g., exercising, using a sauna, working in hot weather], we lose about ½-1 teaspoon of salt per hour, on average.
- Pre-loading salt before excessive sweating will provide greater endurance by dilating vessels for better heat dissipation and slowing of the heart rate.
- When fasting or lowering carbohydrates below 50 grams per day [ketogenic diet], it is important to increase salt intake. This is because lowering sugar intake will lower insulin, and this leads to more salt wasting [excretion].
[i] DiNicolantonio, James. The Salt Fix. (New York: Harmony Books, 2017).