Eating too much salt has bad effects on health. In this article, we will learn what happens when you eat too much salt on a regular basis.
Sodium is not your body’s enemy. In fact, sodium is an important mineral that is required by the body for various important functions, which include:
- Contraction of muscles.
- Nerve transmissions.
- Balance body fluids.
- Maintains normal heart rhythm.
Because sodium is so vital for the normal functioning of the human body, it is important to get your daily dose of sodium via diet to prevent low blood sodium levels.
Salt, which is sodium + chloride is the most common source of sodium. Anything in excess is bad for the body and this fact is true for sodium too.
Eating too much of salt-laden foods can damage the normal functioning of the body. It can endanger your health and put you at risk for a host of diseases.
It can put an additional load on your kidneys, weaken the heart as well as leach out some major minerals from the body.
Effects of Too Much Salt
Let’s have a look at how eating too much salt can wreak havoc in your body:
Raises Your Blood Pressure
Everyone is aware of the fact that individuals with high blood pressure must reduce their salt intake. But, does eating too much salt raise your risk of hypertension?
Excessive intake of sodium is strongly associated with elevated blood pressure, says research. It further affects the functioning of the heart and the kidneys.
Having more sodium levels in the blood, retains more fluid in the body, in an effort to dilute the sodium concentration. This increases the volume of the blood in the body, which in turn raises the blood pressure.
It further reduces the ability of the kidneys to remove water. An increase in the volume of the fluids raises the blood pressure, which exerts extra pressure on the inner lining of the arteries.
Some individuals are more salt-sensitive than others. These people experience greater fluctuations in blood pressure, which depends on the amount of sodium consumed.
Damages the Heart Health
Studies have found a positive association between high sodium intake and blood pressure. Because high blood pressure is the leading risk factor for cardiovascular diseases globally, reducing salt intake is an effective strategy for cardiovascular disease prevention.
A 12 years follow-up period study found that adults who consumed more than 13.7 grams of salt per day, doubled their risk of heart failure.
Eating too much salt increases the blood volume, which raises blood pressure. This may put an additional burden on the heart and the blood vessels. The heart needs to work harder to pump the increased blood volume.
Hence, by cutting down the intake of salt, you can easily protect your heart and blood vessels. (3)
Causes Weight Gain
It is very well-known that eating excess sugar may lead to weight gain, but is there a link between salt intake and obesity?
Salt has no caloric value, yet it is linked to the development of obesity. Research has reported that high sodium intake is associated with obesity and metabolic syndrome in the general population.
A high salt diet stimulates thirst and appetite, which results in excess calorie intake. Furthermore, eating too much salt can interfere with leptin signaling.
Leptin is a hormone, which decreases the appetite and signals the brain to stop eating. Because salt reduces the responsiveness to leptin, it is unable to send signals to the brain to stop eating. This promotes weight gain and obesity.
Increase Kidney Stone Risk
High salt intake is associated with the development of kidney stones, says research. A high salt diet increases the excretion of calcium in the urine. This makes the urine concentrated, which can further lead to the formation of calcium stones. This relationship has been demonstrated regardless of the levels of calcium intake.
In the kidneys, calcium handling is strongly dependent on sodium. A high dietary salt intake induces a high sodium load to the kidneys. This further causes water retention and increases the fluid content in the blood (hypervolemia). This reduces the reabsorption of sodium and water by the kidneys as well as the reabsorption of calcium is diminished because it is dependent on sodium.
Hence, such a condition causes excretion of calcium in the urine. Moreover, high salt intake is linked to lower urinary citrate excretion, which is an important inhibitor of kidney stone formation.
Hence, individuals with a history of kidney stones or those who are genetically predisposed to kidney stone formation must reduce their intake of dietary salt. (6)
Damages the Liver Health
Scientific studies have observed that eating too much salt may facilitate the development of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
Such a diet causes overproduction of reactive oxygen species and induces oxidative stress in the liver. This further accelerates the onset and progression of NASH.
Oxidative stress promotes inflammation, which causes changes in the functioning of the liver cells. It leads to hardening of the liver cells and finally death of the cells, leading to fibrosis.
Therefore, reducing salt intake can protect the liver cells against damage. (7)
Hamper the Immune System
Increasing scientific evidence suggests that excess salt consumption can modulate the immune system negatively and give rise to inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
One interesting study found that individuals who consumed 12 grams of salt per day displayed a higher number of monocytes as compared to individuals who were on a low salt diet.
Monocytes are a type of white blood cell and an increased number of monocytes in the blood are observed in chronic inflammation. Because a high salt diet induces inflammation and oxidative stress, it even alters the functioning of various immune cells present in the body. This may make the immune system weak and make you more prone to diseases and infections.
Increases the Risk of Stomach Cancer
Stomach cancer is the fourth most common cancer worldwide. Based on considerable evidence, a limitation on salt and salted food consumption is a great strategy for preventing gastric cancer.
High dietary salt intake potentiates the colonization of H pylori, which is a known risk factor for stomach cancer.
Salt enhances the ability of H pylori to alter the function of the stomach cells. High salt intake also changes the viscosity of mucus, a slimy layer that protects the inner lining of the stomach and prevents the exposure of the stomach cells to carcinogens.
Besides this, high consumption of salt causes overproduction of reactive oxygen species and induces oxidative stress in the stomach, which favors the growth of cancer cells.
Free radicals damage the healthy and normal cells of the stomach, negatively alter their functioning and finally causes the death of stomach cells. (10)
How to Limit Salt Consumption
Sodium is an important mineral, which is required for the normal functioning of the body, but anything in excess is not good. Eating a diet high in salt has a negative impact on almost every organ system of the body. Hence, it is advised to consume no more than 5 grams of salt per day.
- Foods cooked in restaurants, ready-to-eat foods as well as packaged foods have high sodium content. By consuming these foods, people unknowingly consume a lot of salt in their day-to-day lives.
- Avoid adding salt to curd, salads and cut fruits. Enjoy the natural flavor of the foods as much as you can.
- Cut down your salt intake and substitute it with other natural flavoring agents like lemon juice, black pepper powder, cumin powder, garlic, and mint leaves.
As high salt consumption can cause so many health issues, it is better to use this ingredient within limits.