You'd have to be living on the moon to have missed the new public enemy #1 sign with "salt" as its criminal. Certainly most studies seem to indicate that too much salt in your diet can increase your risk of developing hypertension, and that is a risk factor for heart disease. As a result new salt intake guidelines were developed, that ask most Americans to consume less than 2300 mgs (actually less than 2000 mgs) of salt daily as a first phase goal, and then an additional reduction to 1500 mgs of sodium daily by 2014. Most dietary experts and researchers felt it would simply be too daunting, almost torture, and unrealistic to ask the average person to lower daily limits to 1500 mgs of sodium daily as a one step change; hence the two phase approach.
It's important to note there are people who are "salt-sensitive," who need strictly controlled diets because even limited consumption of salt seems to result in higher blood pressure readings or sustained high blood pressure. African-Americans in particular seem to be more susceptible to salt's impact on blood pressure. On the other hand, some recent small studies came to the conclusion that these new daily goals for salt restriction are over-reaching and unnecessary, and that most people are not suffering from elevated pressure readings due to excess salt consumption.
The general consensus is that we do eat far too many products that contain too much salt, and we also sprinkle salt liberally when we cook or eat, and that excess salt is indeed a proven risk factor for hypertension. Now a new study suggests that when you an obese person consumes too much dietary salt daily, the risk for heart and kidney damage is significantly increased. It seems that the high salt intake specifically in an obese person, causes a series of cellular reactions that result in (a) a protein called ENaC to be instigated and then (b) an enzyme called the sodium pump to be released, which results in promoting reabsorption of salt and fluid retention in the body. That process then is responsible for high blood pressure.
The finding is important because it can lead to new treatments of hypertension when it's specifically caused by this mechanism. The research also highlights how important salt vigilance may be for people who are obese or seriously overweight.
Published On: October 17, 2011