Salt (NaCl) consists of sodium (40%) and chloride (60%), both of which are essential nutrients needed by our body to function.
The various essential minerals present in salt act as important electrolytes in the body. They help in maintaining fluid balance, nerve transmission and muscle function. Excess and shortage of anything (food) is bad for our health. So is the intake of NaCl.
Salt in higher or lower quantity adversely affects our body. Let us try to understand the health hazards caused by inadequate intake of salt.
Side effects of too much salt:
May Worsen Inflammation– An excess of NaCl in diet can raise the risk for autoimmune diseases. Increase in salt intake can cause more issues with inflammation. This inflammation is a factor in worsening hypertension-related tissue damage, Congestive heart failure, and asthma. Further, excess salt can raise aldosterone, which can contribute to inflammation.
May raise Blood pressure – Too much salt intake can increase blood pressure which is one of the strongest risk factors for heart diseases and stroke. So, it may just be wise to restrict it if your blood pressure tends to be high, and you want to keep it within normal range. Also, high sodium intake can worsen sleep apnea if high blood pressure and high aldosterone are present.
May cause Kidney Stones – People prone to kidney stones may need to reduce their sodium intake. This is so because high sodium excretion also leads to a higher level of calcium excretion in the urine. Higher calcium excretion may lead to kidney stone formation, if fluid intake is inadequate. So, foods high in NaCl may increase calcium excretion.
May increase bone Loss – As mentioned above, increased calcium excretion with higher sodium intake, can be problematic for those at risk for low bone density. So, people with osteoporosis may benefit from a lower salt intake.
Increase Risk for Cancers – As per a research report, a strong adverse effect between total salt intake and salt-rich foods with increase risk of stomach cancer was found. So, types of foods with a high sodium diet is the problem. In a study of sodium consumption and headaches, people eating foods high in sodium has one third more headaches than those who eat foods low in sodium.
May cause Cataract – An scientific research study in Australia found association between high sodium intake and the occurrence of cataracts in the population. This is a condition of cloudy vision associated with aging. Its risk can increase with high NaCl consumption.
Side effects of too little salt:
Increase Cardiovascular risks – A study published that a low sodium diet can raise LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) up to 4.6% and triglycerides to 5.9%. Also, a sodium intake of under 3 g per day can increase the risk of dying from Cardiovascular disease like heart failure.
Worsen Insulin resistance and Diabetes – In another study, just one week on a low sodium diet was found enough to cause the onset of insulin resistance in a group of healthy volunteers. In Type II diabetics, restricting salt can potentially raise risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
Bad for Athletes and those with ADH – In athletes, a lower intake of sodium combined with a higher intake of water can cause hyponatremia. It is a condition with unnaturally low salt levels, which can cause headaches, muscle cramps, weakness and seizures. Also, people with higher vasopressin/ADH (Anti- Diuretic Hormone) release should take proper amount of NaCl.
The right intake of salt:
- In general, one should limit their sodium intake to under 2300 mg per day as per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends 1500 to 2300 mg intake per day.
- The American Heart Association (AHA) suggest 1500 mg per day.
So try to keep sodium under 1500 mg per day and to never exceed 2300 mg. This will help ensure your better health.