Reducing salt intake may prevent hypertension, osteoporosis, and kidney stones
Health Canada advises that persons 14 years of age and older consume no more than 2300 mg of sodium per day. This is the amount contained in a teaspoon of salt. The 2300 mg upper limit includes the total of sodium naturally present in food, sodium from salt added by manufacturer in case of pre-prepared foods, and the sodium that comes out of the salt shaker.
Exceeding the limit increases the risk of hypertension, which can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and kidney damage; it can also increase the risks of developing osteoporosis and kidney stones.
In spite of the health risks, most Canadians consume salt far in excess of the Health Canada guidelines. The average intake is 4100 mg for men and 2900 mg for women. And these figures do not even include the sodium from salt that you add to the food yourself.
Salt and Hypertension
Many large observational studies over the past two decades have linked a high sodium intake to high blood pressure and increased deaths from heart attacks and strokes. Yet, the research is mired in controversy.
While it is established that a reduction in salt intake in a population leads to a reduction in risk of hypertension for the overall population, it is not clear as to how the benefits are distributed among groups of people within the population.
Yes, many people with hypertension will benefit from reducing their salt intake, but would everyone with hypertension benefit? No. Can maintaining a low salt intake prevent development of hypertension in healthy people with normal blood pressure? Not always.
Salt and Osteoporosis and Kidney Stones
Hypertension is not the only health effect of excessive salt intake; osteoporosis and kidney stones are two other effects you need to be concerned about. Increasing the level of sodium in the diet causes higher amounts of calcium and oxalate to be excreted in the urine. Thus the development of osteoporosis and kidney stones can proceed side by side: calcium is leached from bones; it then combines with oxalate in urine to form kidney stones.
Everybody should aim to limit their sodium intake to no more than 2300 mg per day. If you’ve hypertension or are middle aged or older, reduce your sodium intake to no more than 1500 mg per day.
Limiting what comes out of the salt shaker is not enough; about 75 percent of sodium people consume comes from pre-prepared foods. So you need to carefully look at your diet.
- Avoid or severely reduce your consumption of fast foods, salty snacks, canned soups and vegetable juices, pizza, sandwiches, submarines, hamburgers, and hot dogs.
- Read food labels carefully: Did you know that ½ cup of Campbell’s condensed cream of mushroom soup contains 850 mg of sodium? Did you know that 1 cup of Cheerios contains 230 mg of sodium?
- Go Mediterranean. To prevent or reduce high blood pressure, it is not enough that you reduce your salt intake. Switch to a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains, plus small servings of lean meat and low-fat dairy. This diet has been shown to be highly effective in combating cardiovascular diseases including high blood pressure.