The Salt/Blood Pressure Debate

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by Mark Sisson: Hangover
Hacks You Can Hang Your HatOn



In response
to last week’s canned
soup post
, reader Dave offered this comment: “I’d
just like to point out that just as many Apple readers believe in
literature that debunks the lipid hypothesis, there’s a camp
that says there is minimal effect on blood pressure from salt. There
are two sides to many stories!”

We couldn’t
agree more that nutritional (or general health) debates are rarely
so simple as they’re made out to be. As long-time readers have
probably noticed, we’ll mention salt recommendations now and
then and generally try to keep our recipe suggestions fairly low
in salt. We do tend to follow general salt recommendations. Blood
pressure issue aside, high salt intake (as we mentioned last
week) has been associated with osteoporosis, asthma, kidney disease
and stomach cancer.

But what about
the salt and blood pressure issue? Does it really hold water (pun
intended)? We’d say it has enough bearing to figure into our
choices, and for some people, research suggests, it’s crucially

For years,
scientists have researched the possibility of a “salt sensitive
hypertension” that was the general result of a person’s
genetic profile. In other words, salt sensitive peoples’ blood
pressure is impacted more than the average person’s. To be
precise, their blood pressure rises 10% or more in response to a
salty meal.

In 2006, researchers
at the University of Virginia Health Center announced
that they had traced the “sensitive” salt response to
particular gene variations and that they were in the process of
completing a genetic test for the salt sensitive profile. Salt
, researchers say, whether it accompanies chronic
high blood pressure, negatively impacts the vascular system in the
same way high blood pressure itself does. African-Americans are
more likely to be salt-sensitive than people of other races in the
U.S. The test, once it becomes readily available, will hopefully
be a useful tool for people who want to learn more about steps essential
for their individual health.

But as for
the rest of us, does salt matter for blood pressure? It’s true
that many studies in this area, as in all areas, have their failings.
And, it’s true that salt is just one piece (albeit an important
one) involved in the process of fluid retention and its link to
higher blood pressure.

the rest of the article

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