Debate over the health effects of dietary salt continues, with a new study suggesting that those who eat lots of salt live longer than those who avoid it. Researchers discovered that those 25% of study subjects consuming the lowest amounts of dietary salt actually had a higher risk of death (over 23 deaths per 1,000 person-years) over the study period compared with the 25% who consumed the highest amounts of salt (just 19 deaths per 1,000 person-years). But the researchers stress that any connections between salt and longevity need to “be considered in the total dietary context.” For example, they explain that high salt intake may simply be a “marker” for specific types of diets which might in a much broader sense positively influence overall longevity.

The Lancet March 14, 1998;351:781-785

COMMENT: Salt is not as bad as we have been constantly told. However, like most areas in health there are a number of other factors to consider. Not everyone should take salt. The best index I have found if one needs salt is to look at a fasting chemistry profile from a good reference lab which shows the serum sodium level. The sodium level should be 139 with an ideal range of 136 to 142. If it is much lower, you probably need salt; if it is higher, you probably want to restrict salt intake. Salt is sodium chloride so you will also want to look at your chloride level. The ideal is 102, with an ideal range of 99 to 105. Just like sodium, lower levels suggests one should add salt and higher levels to restrict its use. One should not use regular table salt as it is processed to temperatures in excess of 1000 degrees which significantly alters its chemical structure. Many sea salts are also processed this way. If the salt is white and flows very nicely, one must be suspicious that this salt is processed. Celtic sea salt is thought to be the best salt. However, I find that the brand name REAL SALT from the mines in Utah which is clearly not processed, is less expensive and tastes better. It is also important to recognize that salt is frequently a “hidden” ingredient in many processed foods, especially canned foods.