Junk medicine exposed! The high blood pressure secret your
doctor isn't telling you: Grab your salt shaker and read on
The Tibetans are known for living long, healthy lives. But their longevity flies in the face of modern lifestyle and dietary guidelines that recommend we eat like rabbits, munching on leaves and grass to keep us alive and well into our golden years. The diet of the Phala nomads in Tibet is totally incorrect-scientifically and politically-based on milk, butter, cheese, sheep, antelope, yak, and practically no fruits or vegetables. And perhaps one of the most interesting and notable aspects of Tibetan well being is that their blood pressure averages are much lower than ours, yet they consume considerable amounts of salt.
Salt restriction in cases of hypertension (high blood pressure) has become one of those "pearls of wisdom" that no one questions. But the truth of the matter is that this little gem is pure junk medicine. Severe salt restriction in people-sick or well-is a dangerous practice and may actually cause more problems than it solves.
Only about one-third of hypertension patients are sensitive to salt and have been found to have low levels of the kidney hormone renin, which regulates blood pressure. In these people, reducing salt intake raises levels of renin. So some, but not drastic, salt restriction may improve control of hypertension in these patients. However, for the remaining majority of people struggling with hypertension who are not salt-sensitive and actually have high renin levels, restricting salt intake has the opposite effect and may cause blood pressure levels to become even more elevated. Unfortunately, after decades of research, there is still no good way to check for sodium (salt) sensitivity, but certain groups-blacks, the elderly, and the obese-are those most likely to be salt sensitive.
Salt is an essential nutrient, just like vitamin A, the fatty acids, and cholesterol. Your body needs adequate amounts of it to survive. Most mainstream physicians think of sodium as if it were some sort of poison. However, sodium works closely with other important nutrients like calcium and potassium to keep the body functioning at optimal levels.
Conflicting, confounded research on the salt-hypertension link proves nothing
In the 1940s, Wallace Kempner, a Duke University researcher, created the now famous "rice diet" for treating hypertension. Patients on this diet ate only rice and peaches. When their blood pressure levels dropped, researchers jumped to the hasty conclusion that the elimination of salt must have done the trick. But, as so often happens in science, they overreacted and forgot about the problem of confounding factors that can completely negate the best-laid plans of mouse or man-especially man. These factors, such as calorie and fat restriction, exercise, potassium intake, magnesium intake, alcohol (increase or decrease, depending on the patient), etc. can cause a reduction in blood pressure (or an elevation) not related at all to salt restriction. Besides, Kempner's research was done on malignant hypertension, which is far removed from the average patient with high blood pressure. Most doctors won't see more than a few cases of this magnitude of hypertension in their entire careers. Nevertheless, the Kempner study resulted in a paradigm shift in thinking about the role of salt in the diet. It became gospel that salt restriction was paramount in controlling hypertension.
Lewis Dahl, a scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, rode Kempner's coattails in "proving" the benefits of a low-salt diet with his own study in 1972. But Dahl's results were even less realistic, with a hodgepodge of variables that made the study useless: Not only was his regimen also low in fat and calories and high in potassium (which have been proven to reduce blood pressure on their own), but it also involved feeding mice enormous amounts of salt-well above the average daily amount consumed by humans-before they became hypertensive in the first place.
When his diet didn't work in hypertensive humans, Dahl blamed the patients for falling off the no-salt wagon despite their vehement denials.
Furthermore, even in those studies illustrating blood pressure reduction with salt restriction (the Trials of Hypertension Prevention-or TOHP-studies), the reduced pressure could not be sustained. Dr. George S. Chrysant, a leader in hypertension research, commented that TOHP research results showed "weight loss was more effective in lowering blood pressure than sodium reductionand the effects of both interventions dissipated with time." He concluded that the studies' less-than-stellar results "raise questions about the general usefulness of sodium reduction for hypertension in the general population."
Salt restriction is more than unnecessary-it's downright dangerous
Lowering blood pressure by salt restriction is inconsistent and unreliable. But there is a far worse criticism of salt restriction: Studies have shown that salt restriction may be linked to organ damage. If the heart and kidneys are damaged by hyponatremia (low blood sodium), you may make the hypertension worse. Salt restriction in the summer months could lead to heat exhaustion, a severe mineral disturbance that causes fainting and sometimes a stroke or a heart attack.
Salt is an essential element in your diet, and it is important that you get the highest quality just as with any other nutrient. So let's talk a bit about what salt is best for you and what the food companies have done to make commercial salt a toxin rather than a nutrient.
Toxic table salt? Read this before you start sprinkling it on
By now you're well aware that the refining process can reduce the value of any food and actually turn some foods into toxic products. It's very likely that if a correlation between salt and hypertension is ever conclusively proven, it will probably be found to be caused by the massive consumption of commercial, refined salt.
Not all salts are created equal. Just as "Sweet 'n Low" is not sugar, "Morton's" is not salt or at least not one made for human consumption. Morton's salt is an industrial product made for the chemical industry, not your table. Ninety percent of this industrial grade salt goes to the chemical industry and the rest to the grocery store, and your dinner table. Refined salt has been stripped of its natural nutrients. It contains additives like ferrocynide and silicates (which are basically sand) to prevent the salt from mixing with water and caking, so that it will pour easily. But if the salt won't mix with water and your body is made up of 70 percent water, it won't mix in your body either.
Refined salt is worse than useless: It can actually lead to some serious nutrient imbalances in your body. This sort of salt has an excess of potassium. Potassium and sodium work together in the body to create an important ratio, which regulates the acid/base balance. When there is too much potassium, the ratio is thrown off and the stomach is unable to produce hydrochloric acid, making digestion becomes impossible. Ordinary table salt can also lead to magnesium deficiency since it contains only minute (0.0 to 0.03 percent) fractions of this essential mineral. Insufficient magnesium levels have been associated with a number of health problems including heart disease, impotence, and senility.
The only salt worthy of your consideration is sea salt from a clean seabed. Don't be fooled: If the label says "U.S. crude salt," it doesn't mean the contents are pure. Crude salt is unrefined industrial salt. It may be unrefined, but it has been mined from a source that is most likely heavily contaminated with heavy metals. Sea salt is the only option.
To be a sea salt worthy of your family, it must meet all three of the following criteria:
*The salt will not be the snow-white variety you're used to. It should be light grey in color. After sitting for a time, the color at the bottom of the container will be darker. If the salt is crystal white, it may be sea salt but it has been treated and fractionated to rid it of impurities and, at the same time, this rids it of essential minerals. If it is not light grey, it is not a nutritious salt.
*Legitimate sea salt is not dry to the touch. It should be a little soggy. The moistness is due to the presence of magnesium salts. When kept in cool storage, it doesn't dry out.
*The crystals, under magnification, are small and cubic.
Actions to take:
Finding pure sea salt can be rather difficult. There are plenty of products out there claiming to be "pure," but, unfortunately, they have almost all been tampered with to some degree. I have only been able to find one source that I trust-The Grain and Salt Society in Ashville, North Carolina.
(1) For more information on the products offered by the Grain and Salt Society, call them at (800)867-7258 or (828)299-9005, or visit them on-line at www.celtic-seasalt.com.
(2) Store the salt in a cool, dry place in an airtight container to prevent it from drying out.
(3) Mix the salt every few days. When natural sea salt sits, the moisture settles to the bottom of the container and the salt will clump. RH
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"Trials of Hypertension Prevention, Phase I," Journal of the American Medical Association 1992; 267: 1,213-1,220
"Treatment of hypertensive vascular disease with rice diet," American Journal of Medicine 1948; 4: 545-577
"The (Political) Science of Salt," Science 1998; 281(14): 898-907
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1997; 65(2 Suppl)
Hypertension 1991; 18
Hypertension 1991; 17