Sodium Demonstrates That More is Not Always Better
In April, an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report once again highlighted the health consequences of eating too much salt. The report’s recommendation that the FDA should regulate salt in restaurant and processed food is news. Repeating information that the sodium in salt worsens high blood pressure merely reinforced what the majority of people likely already had heard.
The most important lesson hidden in the IOM report is the message that, in achieving ideal nutrition, more is not always better.
You may not realize that you do need some sodium, an essential mineral, in your diet.
When dissolved in a fluid (as it is in your body), sodium becomes electrically charged and is called an electrolyte. Sodium is essential for muscle and nerve function. If you lose too much sodium (for example, through heavy sweating), you may experience weakness, nausea, vomiting, cramping, and seizures.
Barring major sodium loss, you don’t need to worry about getting enough of this mineral. In fact, although the USDA recommends maximum amounts of sodium to eat, they do not even bother to suggest a minimum amount. You will get all the sodium you need on just about any reasonable diet.
Your kidneys actively regulate the amount of sodium and other electrolytes in your blood. When you eat too much salt, you make your body’s task of regulating these substances way more difficult, and health consequences may be serious. Cells are damaged by either too much or too little sodium in the fluid surrounding them. We all understand and accept the fact that, for salt, more is not always better. But you might not know that this general principle applies to all nutrients. The fact is, your body is an exquisitely delicate and complex system designed to work within narrow limits. Your body wants to maintain (more…)