Salt, also known as table salt or rock salt (halite), is a crystalline mineral that is composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of ionic salts. It is absolutely essential for animal life, but can be harmful to animals and plants in excess. Salt is one of the oldest, most ubiquitous food seasonings and salting is an important method of food preservation. The taste of salt (saltiness) is one of the basic human tastes.Scientists are investigating our use of salt, and here are links to some of their research.
Salt for human consumption is produced in different forms: unrefined salt (such as sea salt), refined salt (table salt), and iodized salt. It is a crystalline solid, white, pale pink or light gray in color, normally obtained from sea water or rock deposits. Edible rock salts may be slightly grayish in color because of mineral content.
Because of its importance to survival, salt has often been considered a valuable commodity during human history. However, as salt consumption has increased during modern times, scientists have become aware of the health risks associated with high salt intake, including high blood pressure in sensitive individuals. Therefore, some health authorities have recommended limitations of dietary sodium, although others state the risk is minimal for typical western diets.
Recent studies that examine links between sodium consumption and health outcomes support recommendations to lower sodium intake from the very high levels some Americans consume now, but evidence from these studies does not support reduction in sodium intake to below 2,300 mg per day, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine.
The dangerously high salt levels in processed food and fast food remain essentially unchanged, despite numerous calls from public and private health agencies for the food industry to voluntarily reduce sodium levels, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study conducted with the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Numerous epidemiologic studies have shown that a diet high in salt is associated with an increased risk of gastric cancer. Now Timothy L. Cover and colleagues of Vanderbilt University show that high dietary salt combined with infection by the ulcer-causing bacterium Helicobacter pylori greatly increases the risk of cancer.
Much evidence shows that reducing salt intake lowers blood pressure and thereby reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease. Less is known about the potential benefits of increasing potassium intake, but lower potassium consumption has been linked with elevated blood pressure.
Dr. Kotchen cites correlations between blood pressure and salt intake in a number of different studies; typically, the causation between lowering salt intake and decreased levels of blood pressure occur in individuals who have been diagnosed with hypertension. Although not as pronounced, there is also a link between salt intake and blood pressure in non-hypertensive individuals. Additionally, recent studies have demonstrated that a reduced salt intake is associated with decreased cardiovascular disease and decreased mortality.
Seventy-five percent of the world's population consumes nearly twice the daily recommended amount of sodium (salt), according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism and Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention 2013 Scientific Sessions.
Nearly 75 percent of commercial pre-packaged meals and savory snacks for toddlers are high in sodium, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions.
Eating too much salt contributed to 2.3 million deaths from heart attacks, strokes and other heart-related diseases throughout the world in 2010, representing 15 percent of all deaths due to these causes, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions.