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Skinny Without Willpower

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


None! Yeah you heard it right, there is no link between salt intake and heart disease. There is certainly a link between high salt intake and high blood pressure (hypertension) but how that translates into a higher risk for heart disease is unclear at best.

Popular theories claim that a high salt intake causes, due to osmosis, the circulatory volume  to be higher in the blood vessels. This higher volume causes excessive pressure along the walls of the blood vessels causing them to thicken and as a result contrict the blood flow. Just as working the muscles hard in the gym causes them to enlarge in size the higher volume required to pump causes the heart to enlarge dangerously.  But if the muscle enlargement in response to stress analogy was true for blood vessels then the blood vessles should enlarge in response the the added stress and it should actually help with blood flow if anything. If the expansion of heart in response to pumping stress was dangerous, then running a marathon would, by the same token, increase the risk for heart disease because its a well known fact that running frequent marathons increases heart volume. The real danger with excessive salt intake is renal stress in response to excreting the excess salt. I call it a real danger because the excess filteration of salt in the kidneys causes a vascular disorder known as “hypertensive nephrosclerosis,” a major cause of kidney disease. 

So while eating excess salt is dangerous for other reasons it has little correlation with heart disease. An 8 year European study found no correlation between salt intake and the risk for heart disease. In fact they found the exact opposite, i.e., people with high salt intake are less likely to die of heart disease. So while I wouldn't advice excessive salt in diet, there is no reason to avoid this condiment and eat bland food.

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