Anything in excess is bad and consuming too much salt can be really bad for you.
Your body needs a little bit of salt every day for the sodium it contains. Sodium plays a significant role in the body. In particular, it regulates volumes of fluids in the body and aids the uptake of various other nutrients into the body’s cells. Also, the normal pH, or acid-base level of the blood is influenced by sodium.
As sodium cannot be made by the body, you need to provide your body with an adequate amount through the food you eat.
Excess sodium in the body, however, can be harmful to your health as it damages the kidneys. It also promotes water retention which adds to the water weight in the body.
The recommended amount of salt is no more than 5 grams a day (1 teaspoon of salt is about 6 grams). More than this is harmful for your overall health and can cause adverse reactions in your body.
Here are some of the reasons why you should limit your salt intake.
1. Damages Kidneys
Your body needs a small amount of sodium to maintain a proper fluid balance. But excess sodium can be damaging for your kidneys.
Excess salt causes your kidneys to retain water in order to dilute this electrolyte in your bloodstream to help your heart function properly. This places a load on the kidneys and affects renal function.
A 2002 study published in the Journal of Nephrology found that restriction of sodium intake is an important preventive and therapeutic measure in patients with chronic renal diseases of various origins, as well as those at risk of renal damage, such as hypertensive or diabetic patients.
Another study published in 2012 in Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation reports that even a modest reduction of dietary sodium in renal patients is associated with lower blood pressure, lower protein excretion in the urine and better outcomes.
Information on the impact of salt intake on the course of kidney disease is fragmentary, but points to the direction that high salt intake aggravates long-term outcomes.
Later, a 2013 study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology found that two weeks of reduced salt intake by patients with chronic kidney disease resulted in considerable drops in excess extracellular fluid volume, blood pressure and protein excretion in the urine. If maintained long-term, the effects could reduce a patient’s risk of progressing to kidney failure by 30 percent.
2. Increases Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, and high salt intake is one of the leading causes of high blood pressure.
A high sodium level in the body causes a decrease in the synthesis of nitric oxide, an arteriolar vasodilator. This means that blood flow experiences more resistance because the blood vessels are not widened as much.
A 2009 study published in the Journal of Renal Nutrition reports finding a small decrease (1.1 mm Hg) in median systolic but not diastolic blood pressure with reduced dietary sodium intake. The study concludes that sodium restriction in hypertensive patients reduces blood pressure, while noting that the long-term impact of reduced salt intake on blood pressure, mortality and morbidity remained to be defined.
Another study published in 2013 in the BMJ found that a modest reduction in salt intake for four or more weeks causes significant and, from a population viewpoint, important falls in blood pressure in both hypertensive and normotensive individuals, irrespective of gender and ethnic group.
A 2014 study published in Electrolytes & Blood Pressure shows that a reduction of dietary salt intake can decrease the number of deaths from hypertension, cardiovascular disease and strokes.
However, a 2016 study by McMaster University found that a low-salt diet may not be beneficial and may actually increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and death compared to average salt consumption. The study emphasizes that only people who need to worry about reducing sodium in their diet are those with hypertension who have high salt consumption.
3. Raises Stomach Cancer Risk
High salt intake is linked to a higher risk of stomach cancer. In fact, the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research confirm that salt, as well as salted and salty foods, are one of the probable causes of stomach cancer.
A high-salt diet may induce gene activity in the stomach bacteria Helicobacter pylori, making the symptoms more severe. High sodium intake may also make the cancer treatment less effective.
A 2009 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology reports that limiting salt and salted food consumption is a practical strategy for preventing gastric cancer.
A 2014 study published in Cancer Treatment and Research also confirms a strong adverse effect of total salt intake and salt-rich foods on the risk of gastric cancer in the general population.
If you already suffer from a stomach ulcer or you are at a higher risk for stomach cancer, you should avoid adding salt to your food and opt for low-sodium options.