Other Health Problems

Nutrition labelAside from the strong evidence linking high salt intake to high blood pressure, heart problems, cancer and kidney disease, salt has been implicated in some other health issues.

Osteoporosis

Salt intake has a direct relationship with how much calcium our bodies excrete through urine. The more salt we eat, the more salt we excrete, and the more calcium we excrete along with it.

There is now evidence to suggest that when we excrete too much calcium, our intestinal absorption of calcium increases and our bodies also compensate by using calcium from our bones. This has led some authors to suggest that lowering salt intake could reduce calcium excretion, leading to a positive calcium balance, increased bone density and reduced bone fractures. Studies to test this idea are yet to be conducted.

Asthma

Bronchial reactivity is linked to sodium balance. There is some evidence to suggest that the severity of asthma may relate to salt intake. There has also been a study that related a modest reduction in salt intake to a reduction of the severity of asthma attacks and an improvement in measurements of airways resistance in males. A more recent study illustrates the mechanism whereby a higher salt intake could exacerbate asthma.

So, while high salt intake is not a direct cause of asthma, it may be an aggravating factor.

Obesity

Thirst is an unavoidable consequence of eating foods with a high salt content. Where thirst is relieved with high-sugar or high-calorie beverages, such as soft-drinks or beer, it may contribute to weight gain.

Some authors have suggested that increases in salt consumption observed in the USA are strongly associated with increases in obesity there. The conclusion has been drawn that a reduction in salt intake could lead to a reduction in obesity.

Salt sales in the USA were reported to have increased more than 50% between the mid-1980s and late-1990s, and these sales were paralleled by an increased consumption of beverages, which led to an increased intake of calories during the same period.

As suggestions of the link between salt intake and obesity gain further scientific support, there is an increasing argument to reduce salt intake as a means of combating the growing epidemic of obesity in Australia.

Ménière’s disease

Ménière’s disease is a condition with symptoms including vertigo, tinnitus, fluctuating hearing loss and a feeling of pressure in the ear. The disease affects one in every 1000 Australians, most of whom are in their thirties or older.

Although the causes of Ménière’s are not well understood, one of the key strategies in treatment is a strict control of salt intake.