The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) is at it again…
It just released a new initiative that asks restaurants and food manufacturers to cut the amount of salt in their food by half over the next few years. The FDA’s goal is to reduce the amount of salt we consume by exactly 12% … and allegedly save us all from heart disease – and ourselves.
This idea echoes places like China where officials decide what its citizens can and can’t “learn” through the internet and social media. Recently, China’s President Xi Jinping instituted a “cultural revolution” that is transforming China’s economic, financial, cultural, and political practices and exerts an overbearing level of control over its people.
For instance, leading stars in China’s entertainment industry, who are transgender, gay, or represent “big capitalism,” are abruptly being taken off-air, with no traces left of them anywhere in the media.
And for the kids who play video games, they can now only play for one hour – between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. – on Fridays, weekends, and holidays. And this regulation comes in the face of recent profound research showing screen time doesn’t do much harm for U.S. children.
While this comparison might seem extreme, it shows the danger of having someone else – especially Big Brother Government – make decisions for you.
Our government and its various health subsidiaries have demonized salt for decades and have imposed policies that haven’t changed our country’s outlook on heart disease. Why is a 12% cut in consumption the magic number? Why continue to push this initiative that hasn’t given us results? Why aren’t we focusing on inflammation – the real problem underlying so many of our health conditions – instead of our collective salt intake?
The problem with the FDA’s salt attack is the huge misconception that salt is bad for you. Too little salt is just as harmful as too much salt. Your body needs salt to function.
Table salt’s scientific name is sodium chloride. Your body needs both sodium and chloride for things like regulating blood pressure, balancing fluids, and operating its muscles and nerves.
As such, low levels of salt can be life threatening.
When you have too little salt, you can experience hyponatremia, which is characterized by muscle cramps and weakness, nausea, confusion, and fatigue. It can even cause seizures or lead to a coma. This happens in real time to marathon runners in hot weather when they drink unsalted water too quickly.
On the other hand, when you’re eating lots and lots of salt, your blood volume increases because extra water is required to keep you hydrated. And contrary to popular belief, a 2017 study on astronauts found that rather than stimulating thirst, high salt intake decreased the astronauts’ fluid intake and increased their production of hormones that break down fat and muscle, called glucocorticoids. The increase in glucocorticoids allowed for more of the body’s water to be used in breaking down the salt. That means it took more water to break down the salt, but the astronauts were prone to drink less.
Over long periods of time, this extra volume can lead to vessels stiffening and narrowing. Your heart has to work harder to pump blood and oxygen through stiffer vessels, causing higher blood pressures.
Too much salt can also negatively impact your sleep. This happens because salt increases your water retention. So the urge to urinate and remove the excess water and salt from your body wakes you up throughout the night. If you’re a regular reader of mine, you know how important good sleep is…
But our bodies are unique, so we don’t all respond to salt in the same way.
Working kidneys are essential for removing the excess salt from our systems. So the people who should be monitoring their salt intake the closest are those who already have high blood pressure, problems with their kidneys, diseases that affect the kidneys (like diabetes), or are very sensitive to salt.
According to the FDA, the optimal amount of salt is considered to be just 2,300 mg per day, which is only about a teaspoon of salt. However, the average American consumes a whopping 3,400 mg to 3,800 mg per day.
But as an average estimate, that may not reflect how much you personally consume.
This optimal amount, according to the FDA, is despite a robust 2018 study – conducted in 369 communities in various countries around the world – that showed a daily salt intake above 5,000 mg to be the tipping point in cardiovascular disease and stroke risk.
Like many things, it’s a real challenge to determine just how much salt is too much salt for the masses.
We know for sure that “too little” and “too much” both exist. We also know that our salt needs may be different than those of a friend or a family member.
So, we want to use salt in a way that reflects a U-shaped curve… the “Goldilocks” just-right amount.
So on Thursday, I’ll talk a bit more about that Goldilocks amount and share some tips on how to monitor your salt intake if you have high blood pressure, kidney issues, or a salt sensitivity.
This way you can decide what’s best for your life.
What We’re Reading…
- Something different: Why the WHO endorsed the first malaria vaccine.
Here’s to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
November 2, 2021