By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
If We See It, Maybe We Will Believe It. Health Officials Want Warning Labels On Salt Shakers.
Imagine this. You’re at a restaurant about to enjoy a meal with family or friends. Your food arrives to the table, you taste it and then start to reach for the salt shaker which you then realize contains a label that says, “Excess sodium can cause high blood pressure and promote stomach cancer. Limit your use.”
I don’t know about you, but this may be more than enough motivation for me to put the salt shaker down. And this salt warning label is exactly what the World Hypertension League and other leading international health organizations would like to enforce in an effort to get people to be more proactive about reducing their sodium intake, according to this report.
(For many American adults, daily sodium intake should be no more than 1,500 mg. But on average, American adults eat more than 3,400 mg of sodium per day, which is more than double the recommended limit).
These organizations envision that salt warning labels should also be placed on salt sold in grocery stores and be very similar to the health warning you would see on a pack of cigarettes. The smoking warning label reads loud and clear. It basically says that smoking can kill you.
And as morbid as this may sound, it appears that we need to send the same message when it comes to salt.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: there is no way that you can compare smoking cigarettes to consuming salt.
Well, the reality is that you can. "Unhealthy diets are a leading cause of death globally and excess salt consumption is the biggest culprit, estimated to cause over 3 million deaths globally in 2017," said a doctor and advocate of the salt warning label, who was referenced in the report.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not implying that smoking and consuming salt are the same, especially considering that salt (sodium) is a nutrient we all need. Sodium is an essential mineral that helps regulate many bodily functions including blood pressure. But we don’t need nearly as much sodium as most of us are consuming.
The point is that both smoking and excessive salt intake are unnecessarily killing way too many people. However, perhaps what makes salt dangerous in a unique way is that many people don’t seem to be fully acknowledging just how detrimental eating too much salt is to their health, despite all of the medical studies which provide evidence that too much salt significantly increases your risk for developing hypertension and heart disease as well as having a stroke. Hence the desire for the salt warning label.
According to the doctor referenced in the report mentioned earlier, the World Health Organization has a target goal for countries to reduce sodium intake by 30 percent by 2025.
Other initiatives to reduce salt consumption include reducing the amount of sodium in store bought food items.
Now it is important to understand how salt affects the body. We need salt to help engineer the actions of every human cell. And every human action - eating, thinking, running, working - depends on adequate sodium. Salt makes your body hold on to water and excess salt may cause you to retain too much water. The excess water usually raises your blood pressure and puts a strain on various organs like your kidneys and heart. Excessive salt intake may also lead to other health issues, aside from hypertension, heart disease and stroke.
So let's discuss some of these:
- Osteoporosis. “Salt is a major factor in controlling the amount of calcium in the urine and lost from the bones. Because calcium is important for bone strength, too much salt can lead to bone weakening and therefore osteoporosis,” according to one source. “High blood pressure caused by a high salt diet can also increase the risk of osteoporosis by increasing the rate at which calcium is lost from the bones.”
- Kidney stones. Basically, a high-sodium diet may cause kidney stones because it increases the amount of calcium in your urine. Stomach cancer. “Studies have shown that a chronic H. pylori infection is closely associated with salt intake. Salt has been found to increase the growth and action of H. pylori, thus increasing the risk of cancer. Salt may also act as an irritant/inflammatory agent of the stomach lining, which can expose it to carcinogens,” according to this source.
- Obesity. “High salt diets appear to be linked to higher body fat—in particular, the kind of fat that accumulates around your middle,” according to Scientific American. Fat around the middle is called visceral fat, which is especially dangerous to our health. Many nutrient-void, processed and fattening foods are high in salt such as baked goods, potato chips and white bread and crackers.
How can we be proactive?
Well, it remains to be seen if there will actually be warning labels placed on public salt shakers and salt we buy in the grocery store. I do know that we cannot wait for such labels to remind us that we may want to cut back on sodium.
There is also so much we can do to decrease our salt intake without sacrificing flavor.
Learn to be a master of salt-free cooking. In my opinion, one of the best ways to ensure that the foods you prepare and cook at home are tasty is to use aromatic spices and herbs like basil, cilantro, parsley, cumin, sage, dill, ginger and more. Not only will these ingredients enhance the flavor of home-cooked meals and help you reduce the amount of salt you use, but they also contain many essential nutrients, like vitamins and minerals such as calcium, potassium, folate, phosphorus and more.
And the good news is that the less salt you consume, the more likely it is that you will find added salt unappetizing. I’m telling you. Ease up on the salt for a week, and then try a salty potato chip or cracker. You will likely find it way too salty.
For more tips on how to reduce sodium in your daily diet, read here.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.