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Medical Why is ingesting salt bad?

  1. Oct 24, 2012 #1
    I regularly hear people say that eating salt is bad for the health and the heart etc. Why is this? I know that the bodies electrolites such as Na+, K+, Ca2+, Cl- etc. need to be balanced so ingesting too much NaCl will cause electrolyte imbalance, is that what people are referring to when they say salt intake is bad for the health? Can't that be counteracted by taking supplements such as potassium supplements etc?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 24, 2012 #2
  4. Oct 24, 2012 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    No, usually it has to do with water retention which is bad for people with high blood pressure. Recent studies have shown this to not necessarily be true.

    I'll try to find the studies.

    I'll just link to this article for now, it's is just an article.

    Last edited: Oct 24, 2012
  5. Oct 25, 2012 #4
    I'm an old guy with a blood pressure problem, so I've talked this one over at length with my doctor. I need some salt for my body to function properly. The trouble is that my normal diet provides much more than I need. So he told me to cut down.

    Then I get hauled to the emergency room in great pain, where they determine that I don't have enough salt in my system. They fix the problem by giving me salt pills. Then I'm OK.

    So the discussion with my doctor continues. He finds that I often work hard out in the summer heat, and that when I do I sweat a great deal. Two or three gallons of sweat is common, and sometimes I drink up to five gallons of water without having to urinate. So he tells me that for my off nominal behavior, I need more salt. He recommended drinking one small bottle of a particular sports drink with each gallon of water to keep my electrolytes at a safe level. Then on days when I'm not working outside in the heat, go back to a minimum salt diet. This has worked well.
  6. Oct 29, 2012 #5

    That's very interesting. Amazing how complex our bodies are!
  7. Oct 31, 2012 #6
    taking potassium doesnt do anything. The kidney in general has a great propensity to retain sodium and dump potassium. Sodium will be retained at the expense of all other eletrolytes
  8. Nov 4, 2012 #7
    Our taste buds specifically identify salt, and we also crave salt sometimes. If it was bad for our health, I don't think this would be the case.
  9. Nov 4, 2012 #8

    D H

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    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    We need some amount of salt in our diet. It is essential. You will die without any salt intake. However, you can also die with an extreme excess of salt intake, and a lesser (but still excessive) amount of salt intake is bad for your health.

    We crave salt at least in part because salt intake was essential to our hominid ancestors who evolved as hunter-gatherers in a hot, dry climate. Lack of salt was a much, much bigger problem to our ancestors than was excess salt intake. Millions of years of evolution created cravings for things like salt and fat that when consumed in excess are harmful. We've only had a few hundred years where salt and fat are readily accessible. That's not near enough time for evolution to have accommodated to that huge change in diet. We crave what our ancestors needed rather than what we need now.
  10. Nov 4, 2012 #9


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    Staff: Mentor

    I'm not sure where you're getting your information. Potassium intake is extremely important.


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