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Salt: Addictive nutrient. Salt, cancer, hypertension, osteoporosis and more

Salty Taste and Evolution

Most plant foods contain a lot of potassium, and a little sodium. Humans and other animals evolved to survive in this environment, over millions of years. We're very good at conserving sodium, and very good at getting rid of potassium. Our taste buds sensitively detect small amounts of salt, alerting us to those edibles that supply the once-rare substance.

All was well. Then we got clever, and figured out how to dig salt out of the ground, and harvest the ocean's salt from shallow ponds. Our sense of taste is still designed for the ancient situation in which salt was scarce. We don't have any feedback mechanism to tell us when we've had too much salt. We can easily eat much more salt than our kidneys are able to excrete. Don't add salt, there's enough naturally in plant foods.

Neuroadaptation and the Taste for Salt

Your nervous system adapts to whatever you routinely present it with. This is called neuroadaptation. So if you habitually eat salted foods, those will taste normal to you. Unsalted foods will taste flat, bland, at first. People who are used to eating added salt say But I crave salt!. The unexamined assumption is: If I crave it, my body must need it.

People who eat unsalted foods don't crave salt. If you stop eating salt, you will stop craving it. After a while, you become aware of flavors you couldn't detect before. This is not simply a matter of the salt covering the other flavors. If it were, you would taste the full complexity of natural food flavors the very first time you ate an unsalted meal. Your nervous system has adapted to the taste of salt. Give it a little time, and it will adapt to the taste of food.

It's highly ironic that people who consider themselves gourmets use salt. They've rendered themselves insensitive to the wide range of interesting taste experiences available in foods.

Sweat is Salty - If You Eat Salt

If you eat salt, your sweat will be salty. You taste the salt when you exercise on a hot day, or sit in a sauna, and the sweat rolls down your face. If you stop eating salt, your sweat will became much less salty. Your body is very intelligent, don't worry about losing salt in hot weather. Your body is very good at conserving salt.

Salt eating actually makes it harder for your body to produce sweat. Sweat is less salty than blood, because your body is trying to conserve salt, and keep it in your blood. In order to sweat, your body has to work to extract less-salty fluid from salty blood. Blood becomes more salty as more water is drawn from it, and it becomes harder to extract water from the increasingly salty solution.

Many traditional cultures living in hot climates, deserts and jungles, never tasted salt until Europeans brought it. They did fine without salt. Some indigenous cultures in the Americas have made a seasoning by burning palm leaves. The resulting ash is bitter, not salty. This shows that it's high in potassium, the opposite of sodium. These folks do just fine, despite using something that causes the body to lose salt.

Salt and Osteoporosis

Salt eating makes you lose calcium and potassium. The calcium loss increases your risk of osteoporosis. Potassium helps you retain calcium, added sodium makes you lose calcium.

Salt & Cancer

The natural food-based cancer therapy of Max Gerson, MD emphasized the importance of a salt-free diet. Turns out that regions with more salt in the soil and water have higher cancer rates, places with more potassium in their soil and water have less cancer.

Salt and Joint Stiffness

Some people find that after they stop using salt and salted foods, joint stiffness disappears. The joint stiffness is most noticeable when waking up in the morning, is relieved by movement, and is usually attributed to aging. Then after being off salt for a while, the joint stiffness is gone - even though they're still aging.

Potassium & Glycogen in your Muscles

Glycogen is a starch formed in your liver and muscles from glucose. It's a way your liver and muscles store fuel. Potassium is needed in order to make glycogen. If you eat more salt, you lose potassium. The glycogen in your muscles fuels exercise. Running out of glycogen produces hitting the wall, bonking. If you exercise, you need more potassium, not more salt.

Potassium and Glycogen in Your Liver

Glycogen stored in your liver fuels the liver, one of the busiest organs in the body. Potassium is needed in order to make glycogen. The liver uses glycogen to make glucose, which it releases into your blood to maintain your blood sugar level. That's why some nutritionists recommend that people with low blood sugar take potassium. Your brain can only use glucose as a fuel, nothing else. So you need to have some glycogen stored in your liver if you want to be able to think well.

Salt Piece: salt sculpture by Jorg Lenzlinger. A good use for salt.

Gerson therapy; scroll down to 'Salt and water management'

'Salt Toxicity: Is it a major threat to public health?'

Sodium (and chloride) deficiency does not generally result from inadequate dietary intake, even in those on very low-salt diets. Linus Pauling Institute

Salt kills 150,000 a year Center for Science in Public Interest All their articles about salt.
Food Industry Accused of Salt Assault on America
Salt Assault: Comparisons of Processed Foods pdf

Salt Toxicity: Is It A Major Threat To Public Health? By James J. Kenney, PhD, RD, LD, FACN.

Application of Lower Sodium Intake Recommendations to Adults

Reducing Salt Intake pdf

Sodium - Potassium Pump

Sodium - potassium pump: part of every cell in your body. Na+/K+-ATPase © Jordan Rothstein <jordan at>