6 Truths About Consuming Too Much Salt

30 March, 2020
We eat so much more salt than the recommended daily allowance. And we know that consuming too much salt can cause health problems. Eating too little can also be harmful. What do you need to know?

Salt, or sodium chloride, is a compound mineral normally used as a condiment. But for several years, experts have been warning of the dangers of many of us consuming too much salt.

Known by many as white poison, like table sugar or refined flours, consuming high amounts for long periods of time can lead to health problems. Is it true what they say about eating salt?

Below we’ll discuss the most important truths about eating excessive salt. Have a look at the following recommendations. 

1. Consuming too much salt can cause high blood pressure

A man with his doctor.
Scientific studies prove that there is a direct link between consuming too much salt and an increased risk in hypertension.

Solid evidence suggests that salt is one of the main causes of high blood pressure. Having chronic high blood pressure is also known as arterial hypertension.

This, in turn, increases the risk of having a stroke and heart disease, one of the leading causes of death in first world countries.

Some tests carried out in countries such as the United Kingdom, Japan or Finland showed that reducing salt intake on a daily basis led to a reduction in high blood pressure and mortality rates from strokes.

However, these same experts pointed out that this could also have been because they were incorporating other healthy habits at the same time.

Discover more: Excessive salt or sugar intake: which is worse for your health?

2. Consuming a lot of salt can increase the risk of stomach cancer

Today, stomach cancer is still one of the leading types of cancer. Geographical variations in incidence rates led researchers to think that there may be links between this type of cancer and eating habits.

The main dietary factors related to this disease include regular consumption of smoked foods, foods preserved in salt, and foods rich in nitrites.

Some epidemiological studies have analyzed the link between excessive consumption of salt and stomach cancer. A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies found that:

“There is a strong adverse link between total salt intake, foods rich in salt and the risk of gastric cancer in the general population”.

Some research places special emphasis on tinned meat, fish or vegetables in brine. Therefore, clinical and epidemiological evidence indicates that a reduction in salt intake and products rich in salt, could lead to a drop in stomach cancer.

3. Kidney patients need to control salt intake in their diet

People with chronic kidney diseases need to avoid consuming salt. Kidney diseases are linked to heart disease risks and failing kidneys.

Considering that one of the kidney’s roles is sodium balance, it’s important for these patients to moderate their salt intake. In a review of scientific studies, improvements on high blood pressure and sodium excretion could be seen after 24 hours.

The risk of swelling also decreased, however long term effects of salt reduction (such as a drop in the mortality rate or kidney failure) could not be determined.

4. We eat too much salt

A salt shaker.
Most people consume more than the recommended daily allowance. Most of the time we have no idea about the salt content of the products we regularly consume.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends an intake of around 5g of salt per day. The problem today is that an average person’s salt intake significantly exceeds the recommendations of all current guidelines, for both adults and children.

In some countries where it has been measured, an average of 8 to 12 grams of salt is ingested on a daily basis.

5. Be careful with salt that isn’t controlled

The majority of the salt we consume generally doesn’t come from what we cook. This only represents approximately 20 to 25% of our salt intake. Salt found in the foods we buy is far worse. 

Most of it comes from:

  • Pre-made soups and broths
  • Stock cubes
  • Bread, biscuits and breakfast cereals
  • Sausages and other processed meats
  • Snacks and salted nuts

Therefore, the best ways we can reduce salt in our diets is by choosing fresh foods where possible, especially:

  • Fruit and veg
  • Eggs
  • Legumes
  • Dried fruit
  • Cereals
  • Fish
  • Fresh lean meat

Discover: 8 reasons to avoid processed food

6. Too little salt is also dangerous

Like all things, not too little nor not too much. It’s best to have a good balance. We know that we need to monitor excessive consumption. However, we don’t need to eliminate it completely, or reduce our consumption to the bare minimum.

Salt is also necessary. Thanks to sodium, our bodies are able to maintain good hydration levels, transport oxygen and nutrients and produce nervous stimulation.

Consuming too little can also create health issues. Paradoxically, both high and low salt intake causes risks of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

So, we’ve seen some truths about salt and we know that we need salt in our diets. Consult your doctor if you have any questions.

  • Braam B. et al. Understanding the two faces of low-salt intake. Current Hypertension Reports. Junio 2017.
  • D’Elia L. et al. Dietary salt intake and risk of gastric cancer. Cancer treatment and research. 2014. 159:83-95.
  • McMahon EJ. et al. Ingesta de sal dietética modificada para pacientes con nefropatías crónicas. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2015. (2), art n. CD010070.
  • Ritz E., Mehls O. Salt restriciton in kidney disease – a missed therapeutic opportunity? Pediatric Nephrology . 2009. 24 (1): 9-17.
  • Xiao Qin W. et al. Review of salt consumption and stomach cancer risk: Epidemiological and biological evidence. World Jornal of Gastroenterology. Mayo 2009. 15(18):2204-2213.