It’s a fixture on every dinner table… but the mainstream has practically slapped a skull and crossbones on it.
I’m talking about the salt shaker.
For years, salt has taken the blame for blood pressure problems – and there’s no denying that if your BP is truly dangerously high, shovelling in mountains of salt can send you to an early grave.
But eating too little salt isn’t good for you, either.
Pass the salt… instead of passing on it
Fact is, you need salt for your muscles and nerves to function properly. And sodium is crucial to restoring your electrolyte balance, especially after an illness or a big workout.
And now, a new study shows that your brain needs salt, too – because having too little sodium in your blood may get the ball rolling on cognitive decline.
And it can speed it up if your cognitive function is already impaired.
In the study, published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, over 5,000 older men had their blood sodium levels measured and their cognitive function tested.
Compared to men with normal blood sodium levels, those with slightly lower blood sodium levels (called ‘mild hyponatraemia’) were 30 per cent more likely to have cognitive impairment at the beginning of the study.
And at a follow-up about five years later, that risk had jumped to 37 per cent.
Now, the study didn’t determine exactly why a lack of sodium can make cognitive decline worse over time, although it does confirm previous findings from other studies – including one last year that found the same association in both men and women.
The theory that makes the most sense is that having too little sodium in your bloodstream can throw the balance of water off in your body and allow it to build up in your brain. And if your brain swells with water inside your skull (namely cerebral oedema), it’s got nowhere to expand.
And a squished brain is a brain that doesn’t work quite as well.
But before you go dumping tablespoons of salt onto your food, you should know that in the study, the opposite was true as well: High levels of sodium in the blood were also associated with cognitive decline.
So, you’ve got to hit that ‘sweet’ spot of just enough salt, and the best way to do that is to steer clear of restaurant meals and store-bought foods like instant noodles, canned soups, and bottled salad dressings. Studies have shown that those account for a whopping 90 per cent of most people’s salt intake.
But since only 5 per cent comes from adding salt while preparing a home-cooked meal… and another 5 per cent comes from sprinkling some salt on as a finishing touch… don’t be shy with the salt shaker on the fresh foods you cook at home.
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Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.
American Society of Nephrology, 8 February 2018