I've often talked about the medical myth that cutting the enjoyable use of table salt helps prevent heart disease. Now, new evidence shows that it's not only bad for your heart to eat too much salt, but it's also bad if you eat too little salt.
The study analyzed health data from nearly 29,000 adults and found that those with the highest intake of salt and the lowest intake of salt were at an increased risk for heart attack and stroke (cardiovascular disease, or CVD). Interestingly, the researchers found that increased CVD risk started at 6.5 grams of sodium intake a day — more than four times higher than the 1,500 grams officially recommended for people with high blood pressure, and more than three times higher than the 2,300 recommended for the general population! In fact, people eating under 2 grams a day — a level that's supposed to be healthy — were at 37% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease!
I suspect in time, the advice to overly restrict salt will enter the "Medical Hall of Shame," along with the advice to not eat eggs and to avoid sunshine.
Yes, watch out for processed foods that are massive salt bombs. But it's okay to use your salt shaker at the table and enjoy yourself. I recommend sea salt or iodized salt as the healthiest choices.
For those with high blood pressure, the smartest strategy is not to overly restrict salt, but to increase pressure-lowering potassium instead. Just drink a glass of V8 juice a day, or eat a daily banana. Another good, new source of potassium is coconut water. Look for a brand without added sugars, such as Zico, which you can find at Safeway. An eight-ounce serving has 495 mg of potassium, which is about as much as a banana or a cup of V8 juice.
"Urinary Sodium and Potassium Excretion and Risk of Cardiovascular Events," JAMA 2011; 306:2229-2238.
"Urinary sodium and cardiovascular disease risk. Informing guidelines for sodium consumption," Whelton PK. JAMA 2011; 306:2262-2264.
Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of four research studies on their treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.