Skip the Salt, Save Your Health
BY ENDURANCE NEWS STAFF
If you can’t seem to shake the salt habit but feel safe because your blood pressure is normal, this news should give you pause. According to a scientific report, your daily dose of salty snacks, packaged convenience foods, and cured meats could be wrecking your health without causing any external warning signs.
The insidious effects of excess dietary sodium on the body’s internal organs have been detailed in the paper “Dietary Sodium and Health: More Than Just Blood Pressure,” published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Authored by faculty members of the University of Delaware College of Health Sciences and physicians at Christiana Care Health Systems, the article points to evidence of adverse effects on multiple organs, including the blood vessels, heart, kidneys, and brain—even when blood pressure remains normal. The researchers cite more than 100 studies to support their conclusions:
Blood vessels: Potential effects include reduced function of endothelial cells (those that form the lining of the blood vessels), which are involved in coagulation, platelet adhesion, and immune function. According to the researchers, in studies of both animals and humans, high sodium intake reduced endothelial function and increased arterial stiffness independent of blood pressure. In addition, the researchers say “sodium’s deleterious effects on endothelial function likely result from reactive oxygen species, such as superoxide, resulting in reduced nitric oxide bioavailability.” (As discussed in past issues of Endurance News, nitric oxide dilates blood vessels and benefits endurance.)
Heart: The researchers cite studies showing that high dietary sodium intake can lead to enlargement of the muscle tissue that makes up the heart’s main pumping chamber (left ventricle), independent of blood pressure. In fact, among a group of people who had only mildly elevated blood pressure, those who excreted the most sodium showed greater enlargement.
Kidneys: Although “there are a limited number of studies of subjects without kidney disease … evidence suggests that high sodium is associated with reduced renal function.” One animal study showed a decline in renal function with only a minimal increase in blood pressure.
Brain/nervous system: Chronically elevated dietary sodium may sensitize sympathetic neurons and increase response to a variety of stimuli. Even without increased blood pressure, “chronically increased sympathetic outflow may have deleterious target organ effects,” say the researchers.
Limit Your Sodium Intake
- Avoid processed foods. About 70% of dietary sodium comes from processed and prepared foods, including breads, cheeses, processed meats, and sauces. When you do buy packaged foods, check the label for sodium content.
- Don’t add salt at the dinner table. If you must, use a low/no-sodium salt substitute, or enhance flavor with spices, herbs, vinegar, or lemon juice.
- When replenishing electrolytes during exercise, choose Endurolytes. Endurolytes capsules and Fizz contain a full spectrum of minerals, not just sodium and chloride. Endurolytes contains sodium in levels that will not overwhelm your body’s natural ability to regulate this vital mineral.