MYTH: Salt Causes Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

myth-bustedWe ended our previous blog on salt (BUSTING FOOD MYTHS, PART 2: SALT) by promising we’d address the relationships between salt and high blood pressure and healthy pH.

A review of scientific articles on the use of salt challenges the established wisdom that claims:

  • Excess salt is bad for you, and
  • Moderate use of refined sodium (table salt) with added iodine is good for you.

However, other studies also support the established wisdom.

So what are we to think?

Hypertension Studies Overview

The studies showing that high blood pressure and heart attacks are linked to excess dietary salt go back at least as far as 1904 in France when some French doctors reported that six of their patients with high blood pressure were “salt fiends.”

Other studies in the 1970s were somewhat more scientific than that, and supported the earlier claim by demonstrating that rats ingesting the equivalent of 500 grams of sodium a day (typical human ingestion is around 3.5 grams a day) experienced high blood pressure.

The concern about the link between salt intake and hypertension (high blood pressure) was entrenched in our minds and hearts.

However, today, it is not difficult to find other scientific studies that conclude that salt is not a fiendish nutrient when taken in excessive amounts (that is, more than the daily recommended amount) except for those with proven sensitivities to it or with kidney problems. As well, some studies show that too little sodium is more of a problem than too much:

  • Scientific American (July 8 2011) in its summary of recent studies says it’s time to end the war on salt because large studies over decades of time have failed to show a causal link–—except for people who have kidney problems or unusual sensitivities to salt intake. The bottom line here is that there is no solid evidence that salt raises blood pressure.
  • The American National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey’s study of 6,250 subjects (Am J Hypertension 2005;18(2):261) determined that higher sodium diets are not associated with elevated blood pressure, but that low mineral levels in general were associated with high blood pressure.
  • More than that, the Survey found an inverse correlation between dietary sodium levels and blood pressure; that is, they found that the lower the sodium intake, the higher the blood pressure.
  • Dr. Brownstein points out that the coastal population of Japan “…is estimated to have a salt intake double the average of the US population, yet..a longer life-span and less chronic illness….”
  • A review of 57 hypertensive trials found almost no change in individuals with normal blood pressure who ate a low-salt diet, while such diets have also been found to increase the risk of heart attacks by 400%  (Cochrane Database 2004.1, Alderman. Hypertension 1995;25(6)) .

Does Salt Affect PH?

A healthy body registers a pH of about 7.2–7.4; an unhealthy body has a pH lower or higher than that range, with lower pH (acidic) being the most common health issue.

There are three things you need to know about the effect of pH on your body:

  • Most people tend to eat too many refined foods, most of which promote an acidic environment (lowering the pH) and, hence,  making them prone to various life-threatening diseases, including cancer
  • Minerals are one of the most alkalinizing agents for the body, helping protect us from cancerous cell growth
  • Refined salt contains no minerals

Here, then, is the bottom line: Help ensure your body remains in the alkaline range of pH by switching from refined foods in general and refined salt specifically.


So, again, what are we to think? If people like Lawrence Appel, chair of the salt committee for the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans finds it “…tough to nail [salt/hypertension/ph] associations, perhaps the best we can do is appreciate that the fears we tend to hold onto about salt are not based on proven fact.

According to Appel, it seems the US government is not interested in large, controlled clinical trials at this time because of the expense involved, so the average person (and all the scientists and government officials) are left to make decisions for themselves, decisions which appear to be based on incomplete data and rhetoric.

In our opinion, then, the best you can do is:

  • Switch from refined salt to unrefined salt for all the reasons we explored in our previous blog on salt,
  • Be moderate in your use of salt, and
  • Reduce  significantly your dependance on refined foods.

And you might consider writing to your government officials to take on long-term studies to reduce our fear of salt and replace it with substantiated knowledge so we can all better take charge of our own health.

To your good health,

Gloria and Jerre


Your Immune System: A Video Short Talk

In this video short talk, the last in our first video series, is on your immune system. As you’re viewing this, we’re working on our second 5-part series. We’ll let you know when it’s done.

Many tend to think our immune system consists of killer cells in our blood stream, but Gloria emphasizes here that virtually our whole body is involved in fighting disease, and that the largest component of it is…well, have a look and listen to find out. It may surprise you.

The bottom line: if you want to kick disease to the curb and take charge of your own health, you ALWAYS have to go out of your way to look after your immune system, the running theme in our book Eat to Save Your Life.

And if you want to see what she had to say about Diabetes, Depression, Osteoporosis, and Weight-Gain, Weight- Loss, simply click on the link of choice and the video will be available for you.


Weight Gain, Weight Loss: A Video Short Talk

Yesterday’s salt blog (part 1) was unavoidably long. Today’s is brief. Here is Gloria’s discussion (with Jerre) of her approach to weight loss. As usual, just be aware that no advice is good until it takes into account your personal circumstances and health history. Consider this, then, a guide, not a prescription.


Busting Food Myths, Part 2: Salt

MYTH: Salt is bad for you.


Beware the Ides of March

Beware the Ides of March

As we publish this first blog on salt, we note it is the Ides of March, that day in history when Brutus, Cassius, and other conspirators assassinated Julius Caesar. What’s the connection between Caesar and salt? Well, while Julius Caesar was betrayed by those close to him  with ulterior motives and forceful influence, salt may have been betrayed by similar forces—with dire results!

We hear it over and over again: People try to completely eliminate salt from their diets because they think it’s bad for them. Well, yes, too much salt or the wrong kind of salt can be bad for you, but all animals—including humans—need some salt in order to survive and thrive.

That’s why Gloria’s dad set out large blocks of salt (salt licks) for the cattle on his Saskatchewan farm, and it’s why healthcare practitioners generally recommend we get some salt every day.

Why is salt so important? Well, it’s really sodium chloride we’re talking about here, but let’s just call it salt. Your body needs salt for proper electrical activity in cells. Without it, electrical activity within neurons would not be generated, and your nervous system could not coordinate countless functions within your body. Inadequate amounts would leave your muscles unable to contract properly, fluids wouldn’t be distributed appropriately throughout your body, and even your blood pressure wouldn’t be maintained where it should be. (Yes, you need a little of the right kind of salt to ensure your blood pressure is neither too high nor too low.)

Of course, the recommended amount is constantly in dispute, partly because we are all influenced by the myths of salt intake and partly because the effect of salt on our bodies is influenced by each person’s unique biochemistry and a range of health factors.

A general rule of thumb is one-half to one teaspoon of salt per day accumulated from all sources, but check with your healthcare provider because, when it comes to salt intake, the best advice may come from the early Greek aphorism for all decision making: Know thyself. 

 Note: Some people can be highly sensitive to salt (even in the amounts that healthcare providers tend to recommend) and some people have to reduce their intake for medical reasons. Be sure to speak to your healthcare provider before adding more salt to your diet.


You may need to know yourself, but you also need to know a few things about salt, too.  If we look back at the history of salt research over the past century, we’ll find some surprising things:

  1. 1904: “French doctors reported that six of their subjects who had high blood pressure—a known risk factor for heart disease—were salt fiends,” (Scientific American http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=its-time-to-end-the-war-on-salt, 2011).
  2. 1970: Over the intervening seven decades, fear of salt grew, culminating in a report by Brookhaven National Laboratory‘s Lewis Dahl  who claims to have evoked high blood pressure in rats by feeding them 500 grams of salt a day (compared to human daily intake of about 8.5 grams). Fear becomes entrenched and salt is confirmed as a “fiend.”
  3. 2013: The Canadian government joins hosts of others in its announcement (CBC Lang & O’Leary Exchange, March 14) that dietary salt might have to be regulated. Many food manufacturers, like Campbells, have read the signs and reduced salt in their food products.
  4. 1904–2013: The vast majority of studies confirming the role of salt in hypertension and heart attacks ignore unrefined salt and privilege refined salt. It’s hard to find a food manufacturer who uses unrefined salt in food products.

But is the government right? Should people be so wary of salt that it requires government regulation, especially when food manufacturers (such as Campbell’s, for example) already have read the signs and reduced salt in their food products?

Well, these are somewhat complicated questions that are difficult to answer, especially when people’s general understanding of salt is muddied by the dissemination of incomplete information and uninformed fear. Nevertheless, let’s give it a try.


It’s important to understand that the concentration of sodium chloride in your body must be kept within a narrow range. Too high or too low causes problems. This is why people need a little, but not a lot.

The good news is that your body is equipped to deal with some salt excess. Your kidneys, for example, monitor and control the build-up (called accretion) of salt in your body based on the amount you take in. (Source: Michael Alderman, an epidemiologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and former president of the International Society of Hypertension.)

You don’t want to be silly about this, though. Ingesting copious amounts of salt can put your kidneys at terrible risk. As with so many foods, the poison is in the dose.

When calculating the amount of salt you’re eating in a day, include salt from all sources—especially those prepared foods that are often loaded with salt: soups, sauces, gravies, breads and other baked goods, cereals, canned vegetables, pickles, cold cuts, and (of course) chips and snack foods of all kinds.

Your salt intake can add up quickly, so just because we’ve said you need some salt in your diet, don’t go sprinkling your food liberally with it until you know how much you’re already ingesting. Yup, you guessed it: It’s time to read some labels again—or do your own cooking, so you know (really know) what’s in your food. Healthy eating always comes back to that, have you noticed?

Refined vs. Unrefined Salt

While you’re examining food labels for salt, have a look at the ingredients in your table salt itself. You may be in for a shock.

Refined, iodized table salt (as well as some popular sea salts) contains additives such as alumino-silicate to prevent clumping, dextrose (sugar) from corn, and various bleaching agents. Blech!

The salt in your cupboard also may contain iodine. The amount of iodine in refined salt may help prevent goiter (an enlargement of the thyroid gland), but it is hardly sufficient to meet the needs of your body. Only about 10% of the iodine in refined salt is bioavailable because virtually all of the synergistic minerals are missing. There are better sources for iodine than that, such as dulce and kelp and, perhaps, iodine supplements (taken under the guidance of your Naturopath or other healthcare provider, of course).

It’s important to understand that refined salt lacks the trace minerals that are needed to work in concert with sodium. Ironically, refined salt actually leaches minerals from the body—it’s as though the refined salt is looking for the minerals that were removed, and stealing them from your bones and tissues.

Refining salt, therefore, turns it into a toxic product—a situation that is all-too-common in refining processes.

As the renowned David Brownstein, MD points out, “There is a huge difference between refined and unrefined salt. Unrefined salt is packed with essential minerals, and it supplies the body with a proper balance of sodium and chloride with over 80 trace minerals.”

Those trace minerals help to balance the sodium chloride and thereby play a big part in preventing deficiencies of other minerals and warding off high acidity in the body; that is, the various trace minerals in unrefined sea salt help to defend against the onset of chronic illnesses and even cancer.

In fact, minerals and trace minerals are so important that we encourage you to read (or re-read) Chapter 11: Mighty Minerals in our book Eat to Save Your Life. It will help you more fully understand the vital role that minerals and trace minerals play in human health, so you can take better control of your health and kick disease to the curb.

As you can see, unrefined sea salt is an important food; it’s refined salt (regular table salt) that can be unhealthy and even dangerous for the body

So, when you go shopping, avoid the refined table salt and look for unrefined salt. It will have large-crystal grains, and may be pinkish or greyish in color (that’s the minerals). If you want small crystals for your salt shakers, buy a grinder so you’re not tempted to go back to refined salt for its apparent conveniences.

When it comes to salt, Gloria recommends unrefined sea salt such as Himalayan pink, Celtic, and Redmond’s. Jerre likes these, too, plus the true Alaea sea salt produced in Hawaii. Not only are these salts important for you, they taste delicious.

Do you have a favorite unrefined salt? Let us know.

And while you’re picking up that health-giving unrefined salt, please avoid all those seductively-advertised processed foods, canned foods, and packaged foods that contain high amounts of refined salt. Rather than spending your hard-earned money on prepared foods with pretty questionable nutritional benefits, opt instead for certified organic fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and other legumes, poultry, and eggs, as well as fish from the cold deep oceans and lean meat from grass-fed animals.

Unfortunately, over the last 100 years, the vast majority of studies confirming the role of salt in hypertension and heart attacks have ignored unrefined salt and have, instead, privileged refined salt.

This takes us back to our question posed earlier:

  • Is the government right to regulate the amount of salt in processed foods?

Well, you be the judge. Considering that it’s hard to find a manufacturer who uses unrefined salt in its processed food, should the government regulate the amount of salt manufacturers use in their products?

Let us know what you think.

In the meantime, here’s to your salty good health and a happy Ides of March,

Gloria and Jerre

Next blog: Unrefined salt does not raise your blood pressure, does not cause heart attacks, and does contribute to a healthy pH.




Depression, Osteoporosis: Two Video Short Talks

As promised, here is our second and  third Video Short Talk, the first about osteoporosis. You’ll find this very exciting, because Gloria cured her own osteoporosis and gives you an overview of what she did and what you might consider for yourself (with the assistance of your healthcare provider, always!)

The second is of the links between food, supplements, and depression (and mental balance in general).

Like all our Video Short Talks and our articles, the ideas we present to you are not intended for diagnostic purposes.

Because depression is highly individualized, always work with your healthcare professionals in remedying it, but don’t ignore the role of food and supplementation!


Gloria and Jerre

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