Some health conditions make it necessary to cut back on salt.
However, if you are a healthy person, there is probably no need for you to worry about your salt intake. You can feel free to add salt during cooking or at the table in order to improve flavour.
Eating extremely high amounts of salt can be harmful, but eating too little may be just as bad for your health.
As is so often the case in nutrition, the optimal intake is somewhere between the two extremes.
Low salt intake can be harmful
There is some evidence suggesting that a low-salt diet can be downright harmful.
The negative health effects include:
• Elevated LDL cholesterol and triglycerides: Salt restriction has been linked to elevated LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides.
•Heart disease: Several studies report that less than 3,000mg of sodium per day is linked to an increased risk of dying from heart disease.
•Heart failure: One analysis found that restricting salt intake increased the risk of dying for people with heart failure. The effect was staggering, with a 160 per cent higher risk of death in individuals who reduced their salt intake.
•Insulin resistance: Some studies have reported that a low-salt diet may increase insulin resistance.
•Type 2 diabetes: One study found that in type 2 diabetes patients, less sodium was associated with an increased risk of death.
High salt intake is linked to stomach cancer
Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, is the fifth most common cancer.
It is the third leading cause of cancer death worldwide, and is responsible for more than 700,000 deaths each year.
Several observational studies associate high-salt diets with an increased risk of stomach cancer, finding that people with high salt intake have a 68 per cent higher risk of stomach cancer.
Exactly how or why this happens is not well understood, but several theories exist:
• Growth of bacteria: High salt intake may increase the growth of Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that can lead to inflammation and gastric ulcers. This may increase the risk of stomach cancer.
•Damage to stomach lining: A diet high in salt may damage and inflame the stomach lining, thus exposing it to carcinogens.