Salt Is Not Guilty Of Causing High Blood Pressure

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In popular
thought, disputing sodium’s link to high blood pressure is equivalent
to questioning whether the earth is round. However, some experts
now believe that salt will not raise blood pressure in everyone,
just in people who are "salt sensitive." Only 10 percent
of the population is salt sensitive, according to BioMarkers
by Professor William Evans and Dr. Irwin H. Rosenberg.

Of course,
far more than 10 percent of us suffer from hypertension, meaning
that if these experts are correct, salt intake cannot be the only
factor contributing to America’s high blood pressure epidemic. In
fact, according to Gayle Reichler’s book, Active
Wellness
, only half the people with hypertension have high
blood pressure because of their salt intake, making cutting down
on the amount of salt you eat a good step toward lower blood pressure,
but not a cure-all.

Scientists
are still unsure why some people’s bodies respond to salt more drastically
than others; however, most theories focus on sodium’s in vivo
interaction with potassium, magnesium and calcium. In fact, some
experts believe that these nutrients play more of a role in these
individuals’ salt sensitivity than sodium itself. Deficiencies in
these complementary minerals may actually be the larger culprit
in hypertension.

"The problem
is just as likely to be too little potassium, calcium and magnesium,"
emphasizes Alice Feinstein in Healing
with Vitamins
. Most experts agree that you would do well
to consume sodium in balance with potassium in order to maintain
healthy blood pressure, but they are still unsure about how this
potassium mechanism works. Some experts believe that potassium lowers
blood pressure by relaxing small blood vessels, while others think
that it works by helping the body expel excess sodium and water.

Another interesting
theory asserts that these people actually have hypertension because
of calcium deficiency, rather than an excess of sodium. However,
as Jean Carper explains in Food:
Your Miracle Medicine
, proponents of this theory have multiple
theories about how it might operate: "One theory is that such
individuals retain water when they eat too much sodium, and that
calcium acts like a natural diuretic to help kidneys release sodium
and water, thus reducing blood pressure. Another, more complex explanation
is that calcium works by preventing release of the parathyroid hormone
that can raise blood pressure."

As is often
the case with uncharted health territory, when it comes to the salt
sensitivity explanation for hypertension, theories often pile upon
theories. This isn’t a bad thing; rather, it makes the intellectual
environment ripe for new discoveries. On the other hand, it’s important
to remember that not all experts agree with the salt-sensitivity
theory. "There’s no question about it: A great number of comparative
studies of people who use no salt and those who use great quantities
have proved that high salt equals high blood pressure," writes
Gary Null in his Complete
Guide to Health and Nutrition
.

Dr. William
Castelli, director of the famous Framingham Heart Study, also cites
demographic studies as support for the mainstream medical viewpoint
that consuming excess sodium leads to hypertension, a perspective
that some naturopaths also share. Furthermore, in Food Politics,
Marion Nestle questions the ethical roots of some of the salt-sensitivity
theory’s proponents, pointing out some objectionable financial backing:
“‘There is reason to be concerned that lowering NaCl [salt] intake
may have long-term metabolic risks that have not been fully identified
. . . we do not have solid evidence that lower NaCl intake prospectively
will prevent or control high blood pressure.”

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the rest of the article

September
16, 2009

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