Eating Too Much Salt Because We Can’t Cook?

2009-05-23 | |
Last updated: 2009-05-23

Since ancient times, salt has been a valued commodity with an importance greater than gold at certain points in our collective history. To our ancestors, getting sufficient salt was all-important for maintaining individual health, for use as an antibiotic and for preserving food to ensure survival in times of scarcity. Whole trading empires existed simply to move salt from the mines or ocean shores on which it was harvested all the way to the consumers who paid relatively far more for it than we do now. The ancient Mayans harvested salt from the ocean and it was extracted from mines in China and in Africa. Exotic cities like Timbuktu became known because of salt.

As we all know, in modern times salt is a commodity with very little commercial value and as a result very little cost. However, at an individual level we have by no means lost our deep desire for the substance. Much of the food that we buy in our stores has significant amounts of salt in it and many of the foods that we traditionally eat also have an unhealthy dose. Our sense of taste attributes great value to the presence of salt in the foods we eat. Unfortunately this primitive hard wiring to enjoy salt has strong negative consequences on our health in the modern world.

What Problems Are Caused By Consuming Too Much Salt?

High Salt Consumption And High Blood Pressure

While excess salt or sodium can cause a number of negative effects on the body, the primary effect for which it is known is hypertension or high blood pressure. Hypertension affects almost 30% of Americans, 40% of Britains and often leads to heart disease and stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control in the US, a whopping 70% of Americans should be on a low sodium diet because of the risks that they face. This number is less surprising, however, when we consider that the average daily salt intake in the US is roughly 50% more than the recommended limit.

In addition to the personal health effects, hypertension and the resulting heart disease also have a huge effect on society, costing nearly 60 billion for strokes and more than 60 billion for heart attacks annually. In fact, each year in the US, 1 in 450 people will experience a stroke and 1 in 200, a heart attack. Of those who experience a heart or stroke, 30% will die. These numbers are too high especially when we consider that research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has determined that by simply placing those at risk on a low sodium diet, the risk of death can be cut by 26%.

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Category: Disease Prevention, General Health, Health Risks

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