Salt is an essential component of our life. Its history is closely linked to that of humanity. Very long time, it served primarily for the conservation of food. For this reason, its consumption has increased steadily until the twentieth century. With the emergence of new food preservation techniques (refrigeration, freezing), its use has gradually declined. However, it remains an essential component of our diet. Today, we are increasingly concerned about the dangers of excessive drinking is health. The negative consequences of a diet too high in salt are manifested primarily through blood pressure and renal and cardiovascular complications it can cause.
Originally, the human species, like other mammals ate only a very little salt. Only a few thousand years that man adds salt to their diet. Today the average and usual consumption of salt (sodium chloride) is around 10 grams/day in industrialized countries, while half would be sufficient. In Switzerland, according to a working group report SEL of the Federal Commission for Food, the daily ration would present a contribution of 12-13 grams. A national survey from 1984 concluded that an average intake of 11.9 grams.
In our modern diet, 75% of salt intake comes from processed foods. Food prepared at home only 15 to 20% of our daily intake. The rest is bound to the addition of salt during cooking or by means of the shaker table. It is not generally realized that the majority of ingested salt comes from the high sodium content of food products such as bread, meats, soups, and other snacks, pizzas, sauces, and condiments. Thus the ever-increasing consumption of these foods results in a large increase in salt intake, especially in children and adolescents, especially males. Effective reduction of salt consumption can not pass that by changing the salt content of these foods and better nutrition.
Faced with this situation, many formal recommendations were proposed by the national and international medical societies. All these groups of experts conclude that “the average daily salt intake should not exceed 6g in adults and there is no evidence that limiting daily intake to 6g per day includes high risk on your health.”
The effect of salt on your health?
The main effect of a diet too high in salt on health is an increase in blood pressure, which can in some cases lead to the onset of hypertension. The latter represents one of the major factors for cardiovascular diseases such as stroke or heart attack. In industrialized countries like Switzerland, hypertension, defined as pressure above 140/90 mmHg, affects about 20% of the adult population. This increases to nearly 70% if one considers that patients older than 65 years. High blood pressure has many possible causes, related to both our genetic heritage and our environment.
Among environmental factors, salt consumption is an important factor, though, scientifically, the link between salt intake and blood pressure remains hotly controversial. In fact, numerous clinical studies well-conducted have shown that reducing salt content in food lowers blood pressure both in people who have normal blood pressure in hypertensive patients. The study demonstrates beautifully the benefits of a balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables and low in salt on blood pressure. In hypertensive patients treated with drugs, even moderate restriction of the salt content of food often improves control of blood pressure and reduces the number of necessary drugs. A less salty diet lowers blood pressure and also reduces cardiovascular complications. Therefore, the recommendations for a daily intake of 6g of salt could have a considerable impact on the increasing risk of cardiovascular disease, leading to death.
Eat less salty, for your health!
“Prevention is better than cure”. It is clear that consuming more than 6 grams of salt per day is not beneficial to your health. Instead, eat more than 10 grams of salt a day, as we do now, can only have a negative impact. It is therefore very important not to perpetuate those bad habits, especially among children. Even if everyone does not necessarily have a less salty diet because some topics are more sensitive to salt than others, an overall reduction in salt intake can only have a significant impact on the incidence of cardiovascular diseases.
Thus, based on British and Finnish data, a reduction in consumption of soda to 6g/day would reduce stroke by about 25% and heart and brain vascular accidents by almost 20%. It is therefore advising people at risk, such as patients with hypertension or those with cardiovascular disease, consume less salt but also (and especially) to consume more fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, limiting their consumption of fats (animal, especially).