Friday, February 3, 2012


Salt in moderate quantities enhance the appeal of those foods which are bland to taste. Any savory preparation without salt can be a disaster for any food processor as there will be few takers for it. On the other hand high salt content can be organoleptically undesirable besides setting in the satiety factor quickly. For centuries salt was valued very high in the human society and there was a time salt was even used as a currency for trade. How is that such a friendly and useful commodity has fallen off the high pedestal in a matter of 4-5 decades and to day it is being castigated as the biggest enemy of human being! While no one disputes the essentiality of salt for normal good health, what is being debated is how much can be consumed by an individual without being affected by a plethora of diseases attributed to high salt consumption. If health and nutrition pundits are to be believed a human just requires just about 220 mg of sodium a day, equivalent to half a gram of salt whereas actual consumption could be almost 5-20 times in different parts of the world. The new finding that it is not the level of salt in the diet that determines the vulnerability of humans to diseases but the ratio of sodium to potassium that influences the health, appears to answer the troubling question as to why all people consuming high salt are not affected by their diet. Probably salt in isolation may not be a true indicator for developing diseases and the whole life style also may have a role to play. Here is a take on this vital health issue confronting to day's world.

"Well, think again. A major study, based on data from more than 12,000 American adults, took into account all those risk factors for death from heart disease. The researchers found that while a diet high in sodium — salt is the main source — increases your risk, even more important is the ratio of sodium (harmful) to potassium (protective) in one's diet. When people whose meals contained little sodium relative to potassium were compared with those whose diets had a high sodium-to-potassium ratio, the latter were nearly 50 percent more likely to die from any cause and more than twice as likely to die from ischemic heart disease during a follow-up period averaging 14.8 years. Although there has been on-and-off controversy about the value of limiting dietary salt, there is no question that a high level of sodium in the diet raises blood pressure and the risk of chronic hypertension by stiffening arteries and blocking nitric oxide, which relaxes arteries. Hypertension, in turn, contributes to heart disease and stroke, leading causes of death. Potassium, on the other hand, activates nitric oxide and thus reduces pressure in the arteries, lowering the risk of hypertension. "We controlled for all the major cardiovascular risk factors and still found an association between the sodium-potassium ratio and deaths from heart disease," said Dr. Elena V. Kuklina, a nutritional epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an author of the study, published earlier this year in Archives of Internal Medicine. "With age, the risk of high blood pressure increases. The lifetime risk in this country is 90 percent. If you live long enough, you're at risk." According to an Institute of Medicine report on sodium released last year, "No one is immune to the adverse health effects of excessive sodium intake."

If adequate knowledge is not available to day as to the type of diet which can be safe for the humans, in spite of high salt content present, it is time more focused attention is given to unravel the mysteries of this vital food ingredient. If salt is really bad in the daily diet why is that people in countries like India who are prolific consumers of salt have less incidences of blood pressure and other salt related diseases? Surveys like the above reported cannot give absolute answer to such pointed queries and the answer lies some where else. More research under controlled conditions using human subjects is called for in elucidating the role of salt. In absence of clear picture regarding optimum intake of salt for sound health, it may be wiser to listen to cautionary signals calling for cutting down salt as much as possible. One can only hope that lowering of salt in the diet as being recommended will not precipitate any other unanticipated problems in future.


1 comment:

health ecology said...

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