Salt, Healthy? Why It Might No Longer Be Public Enemy No. 1

For decades, we've been told to eat less salt for lower blood pressure—but could this advice be harming, rather than helping, our health?

By Gary Taubes from The New York Times

Salt, Healthy? Why It Might No Longer Be Public Enemy No. 1Photograph by Travis Rathbone
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 claimed that salt supplementation was unnecessary after strenuous exercise, and this advice was passed on by health reporters. I recalled high school football practices in suburban Maryland, sweating profusely through double sessions on swamplike 90-degree days. 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 replenish salt when we sweat it out in physical activity, the message that we should avoid salt at all other times remains strong. Experts say salt raises blood pressure, causes hypertension, and increases the risk of premature death. This is why the Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines still consider salt Public Enemy No. 1, before fats, sugar, 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 is surprisingly controversial—because the actual evidence to support it has always been so weak.

  • Your Comments

    • dana matherson

      salt is amazing, especially in angus burgers from mcdonalds on friday’s after school

    • http://www.facebook.com/tom.thompson.9699 Tom Thompson

      I was born in the 20s and during that period food for the working classes was basic and wholesome and didn’t contain any additives as they do today and we didn’t have the facilities with i.e. fridge/freezers,microwaves etc.and all foodstuffs was virtually organic with no forced growing and salt was used daily This continued on throughout wwii where many foods were dried out to powder form to preserve longer. During all that period and into the 50s. This was the ‘ Matchstick’ generation of hard manual workers and therefore salt never caused a health problem. Today, in the main, we have the ‘Push Button’ generation with a shorter working week.I started work at the age of 14 and worked 48 hours a week plus compulsory overtime, Many of that generation are now in the 90s plus. I have never seen so much obesity as we have in the the Western World to day. As a youth entering the R A F during wwii I weighed 10st.8lbs.. To day I weigh 10st. 12lbs.
      I remember one of my old schoolteacher’s saying ” how many teeth do you have ?….32 and that’s how many times you chew your food before you swallow it, you are not stoking a boiler and if you do you cant enjoy the taste”. To day I am still a slow eater and the last to leave the table.
                                                                                                            Tom Thompson
                                                                                                                Birmingham.

    • Clay

      Most importantly, all salts are not created equal.  Cheap, over-processed table salt has dangerous additives which the FDA does not require be disclosed (due to crooked politics).  Only NATURAL salts should be consumed.  So make sure your foods are made with natural salts and ask your restaurants what salt they use.  You can guess what chain restaurants use…  

      • Stevensamuels1

        salt is salt dude, it comes from mines which were formed from prehistoric lakes and has no ADDITIVES other than something to make it flow.    ” natural salt  ” or  ” sea salt ” are great scams to get you to pay ten times the amount of table salt .  i bet you buy ” bottled water ” too thinking you are getting something special . exactly what ” dangerous additives ” do you think are in salt ?

    • Clay

      njgggggggggjjo

    • Guest

      there once was a supposition that some black americans had a worse reaction to salt than others . what happened to that idea ? i think it was related to b/p and heart and cad as well.

    • Zzlatz

      BigPharma financial interests are involved here as well.
      These criminals knew very well what will be consequences of avoiding salt: more deceases and of course more medications buying. This is what they wanted. this is where they put their money – to bribe the “health” “authorities” to convince the public that salt is an enemy.
      and it’s not only with salt.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fivecentfather Ken Nichols

      Why do people listen to what the government tells them is healthy? Our bodies were designed to help us balance out everything. Eat what you want, but eat everything in moderation. If you crave salt, have something salty – just not EVERY day. If you crave salad, listen to your body and have some – you probably NEED it. Same with fruit, meat, eggs, milk, carbs, etc. Your body will tell you what it is short on. Too much of ANYTHING – no matter how healthy it is claimed to be — is not good for you. A varied diet is always best, but you don’t have to have some of everything every single day, to the point where you actually WORRY about not having a particular food. It’s OK to vary it over a longer term – a week maybe. If veggies seem distasteful today, skip em. Just keep in mind that your body will want to “catch up” on the crunchy green stuff soon.