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Old 08-21-2011, 04:33 PM   #1
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For years I have been trying to figure out whether I should be worried about salt, and I think I have mostly come to the conclusion that I haven't yet found a reason to worry about it. I eat a TON of salt, like a really crazy amount. People are horrified when they see how I use salt. But my grandmother did the exact same thing. She died younger than she should have, mid-60s, of lung cancer after smoking for many decades, so I'm going to chalk that up to not being salt-related. She had low blood pressure her whole life (mine has been low to normal).

Anyway... I keep asking doctors and they tell me not to worry about it and go ahead and eat the salt. When I was pregnant the second time I blew up like a BALLOON and my perinatologist said, don't stop the salt! And then one day I went to mcdonald's so my older child could run around w/o me having to chase him, ate a huge order of fries with a couple of extra salt packets poured on, worried that I would have a heart attack or pop, and then shockingly, my swelling went down a shocking amount!

So, it's not intuitive to me. I haven't read anything that convinces me that it's important not to eat it. My doctors say it's okay to eat it. But everyone I know IRL and everyone I see online talking about it seems to think it is super necessary to cut it out. My husband is "watching his salt," thought he is not sure why.
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Old 08-21-2011, 04:46 PM   #2
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Salt gave me a terrible week last week- I ate a ton and didn't lose weight for 10 days. It wasn't until three days after I cut out the salt that I lost again- almost five pounds for that period. So personally, I tend to retain a ton of water on the stuff. Of course, it's probably indivudalized.

As far as the salt and blood pressure issue, there are contradicting studies on that. I recently heard (from one of my professors) of one that suggested that salt only influences blood pressure significantly in people with a certain pair of genes, one which was very common in people of African ancestry.
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Old 08-21-2011, 05:04 PM   #3
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So, for you, it seems like the salt actually stopped the fat loss? I could certainly see that being a good reason to cut it out.

In my case, I'm assuming that I am a bit heavier because I eat so much salt (though, for all I know I would be heavier without, given my mcdonald's experience), but that it's always the same couple of pounds and does not effect fat loss. If I found out my water loss would be ten pounds, I might actually try not eating salt, but I am assuming it's more like 1 to 4 pounds. I have nothing to base that on though. lol

But I don't think it could be effecting my fat loss, since I've lost quite a bit now, though it's possible I'd be losing faster.

I had heard that too about the blood pressure issue being one that only applied to a small number of people of African descent and I think maybe also just men, though I might have made that up. At any rate, I don't *think* it applies to me, though I do have some African ancestry, I don't think it's much at all. And then there's the fact that my blood pressure is fine. So I don't think I need to worry about that.

eta: Did you eat your usual meal plan, with the only difference being more added salt?
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Old 08-21-2011, 05:24 PM   #4
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I didn't set out to cut sodium, but it ended up happening when I cut processed foods. I was never one to add salt to food either, so while I don't keep track per se, I'd say my sodium intake is pretty low. I don't know that having sodium in my diet interferes with losing fat, but it does interfere with what the scale says- when I do have more of it it makes me retain water like nothing! It will eventually go away, but it's annoying. I've also become really sensitive to the taste of salt, so I end up avoiding excessive amounts for that reason too. (If only this could happen with the taste of sugar... )

If your doc says the amount of salt in your diet is OK for you health wise, I wouldn't be too concerned. Our bodies need salt to function! Finding that right balance for you is what it's all about .
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Old 08-21-2011, 05:25 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rubidoux View Post
So, for you, it seems like the salt actually stopped the fat loss? I could certainly see that being a good reason to cut it out.

..
eta: Did you eat your usual meal plan, with the only difference being more added salt?
No, I kept losing the fat. I lost a few inches in those few days only, and when I stopped eating so much salt the water retention decreased and my weight decreased, showing the fat loss. During that week and a half I lost almost five pounds- exactly what my bodybugg predicted I would lose based on my calorie deficit. It just all came off in one day because of the water retention.

And yes- I'm a calorie counter and was very good during this period, but I got on a popcorn kick. I found a low calorie topping that I love, but didn't realize how much salt I had been eating until afterward. It took about 3 days off the popcorn for me to lose the water.

I've never heard that water retention is particularly bad for you, and I continued to lose fat during this period, so if you're used to eating a higher amount of sodium consistently, then maybe it shouldn't be a problem. It's wasn't really a problem for me except that it was frustrating to see the scale move so little.
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Old 08-21-2011, 05:43 PM   #6
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Not everyone, not even everyone with high blood pressure, has to watch sodium. Oddly enough, even though I have high blood pressure, I have to watch salt in reverse - that is I have to make sure I'm getting enough.

My sodium levels tend to run on the low-side. I don't intentionally restrict sodium, but I was raised in a family that used very little salt. No salt at the table, and usually it was omitted or greatly reduced in recipes. My mother always taught me to use no more than 1/4 of whatever a recipe called for, or to leave it out entirely.

I wasn't raised on lots of processed or junk foods either, though because it is in almost everything I'm sure I still exceeded (or at least met) the RDA, especially since I like pickles and asian food which tends to be rather high in sodium.

I do retain water with sodium, but it doesn't appear to affect my blood pressure. Also, for some reason (probably a combination of diet, fluid intake, genetics, and my blood pressure medication) my body tends to shed sodium more easily than most. My sodium levels are always at the very bottom border of normal. Every once in a while, it will cross into too-low levels and my doctor will tell me to add a little salt for a couple days, and before surgeries I have to have my sodium levels checked. In the past I even had to take sodium supplements before surgery. My mother is the same way (even though we're not biologically related, as I was adopted) and she actually was hospitalized with water poisioning (which is essentially dangeorusly low sodium levels, because water washes sodium from the body).

Some health professionals argue that it's not sodium quantity that is a problem by itself, it's the sodium/potassium ratio that is more important. As a result many believe that if you're eating a lot of sodium, eating more potassium rich foods and/or drinking extra water is more important than the amount of sodium you're taking in.

I think people need to discuss sodium with their doctor, and if their doctor tells them not to worry - then they shoudln't worry.
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Old 08-21-2011, 05:52 PM   #7
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That's really interesting. I LOVE salt, love it. I add salt to everything--including peanut butter and salad! But I don't eat much processed or junky food so I figure that's ok trade off.

My partner has started to nag me about my salt consumption recently but as my blood pressure is on the low side, I reckon I'm ok.



ETA: Am I making this up or is sodium related to the hardening of arteries? Or is that what the blood pressure thing is about?
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Old 08-21-2011, 06:12 PM   #8
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I am hypertensive, so I recently asked my doctor about salt, and he said for me not to worry about it. So I don't.

There's too many other things I have to worry about out there.
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Old 08-21-2011, 06:18 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kaplods View Post
Oddly enough, even though I have high blood pressure, I have to watch salt in reverse - that is I have to make sure I'm getting enough.

I think people need to discuss sodium with their doctor, and if their doctor tells them not to worry - then they shoudln't worry.
It is so interesting to me that you and your mother don't eat much salt even though it seems like you're on the salt-deficient side of things. I read an article a while back that said that studies have shown that all over the world people eat very similar levels of salt (on average, I believe individuals didn't all fall in at the same level) and it's believed that we have some mechanism that causes us, as individuals, to eat what we need to keep our levels steady and at the right levels. When I read it, I was comforted for a moment and then thought, eh, my mechanism is probably broken. lol But it makes me wonder why you and your mother don't have a bit more of a taste for salt.

I am also comforted by the doctors repeatedly telling me it's fine. But I did leave out the fact that once upon a time, they told me it was terrible. Those were in the same days that they told me to eat huge amounts of carbs and no fat, etc. Now they seem to have all changed their tune on all of it. And I think they are closer to right now, given what my experience has been, but sometimes I just wonder if they just believe everything they read.

DietVet, Good to know I'm not alone! I salt peanut butter too, and most salads. My mother doesn't eat salt like I do, probably in the normal range as far as quantity, but she salts the strangest things. She puts salt on watermelon, apples, and grapefruit, which I generally don't do -- though I love a nice sweet apple with peanut butter and a ton of salt.

JoJoJo, It's good to hear it's not only my doctors! Maybe it really is all of them now.

Do you all thing this salt thing is a thing of the past? I feel like *everywhere* I turn I am reading/hearing that people are trying to reduce salt, though. Didn't they recently start some crazy campaign in NYC about forcing restaurants to lower salt? When I hear that the mayor of NYC is on an anti-salt campaign it really makes me wonder. What does he know that I don't? Or is he just remembering that when he was in grade school people said salt was bad? If that's what he's relying on, someone needs to sit him down for a chat.
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Old 08-21-2011, 06:34 PM   #10
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Ok, here it is: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/pr2010/pr053-10.shtml It's not restaurants, I guess, just a campaign to get people to pay attention to and lower their salt.

So, who's right, the NYC health commish or my own personal endocrinologist, perinatologist, and GP? I'm guessing my docs are right, and I'm guessing that it is true that only a small segment of black men need to worry about a specific blood pressure syndrome (disease?). But according to the linked article, it sure looks like some pretty powerful doctors believe otherwise. They can't just be on crack, can they?

I guess after reading Good Calorie, Bad Calorie, I should not be in the slightest surprised by this sort of discrepancy, but it does disturb me. Partly because of all of the years that I was banging my head against a wall eating low fat and being so proud for meeting my whole grain and high fiber requirements for the day. Gah! I would really like to know the real answer somehow. I feel like this should not be beyond the capacity of modern day scientists to figure out.
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Old 08-21-2011, 06:48 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by rubidoux View Post
It is so interesting to me that you and your mother don't eat much salt even though it seems like you're on the salt-deficient side of things. I read an article a while back that said that studies have shown that all over the world people eat very similar levels of salt (on average, I believe individuals didn't all fall in at the same level) and it's believed that we have some mechanism that causes us, as individuals, to eat what we need to keep our levels steady and at the right levels.

There've also been many studies that have found that the more salt you eat, the more salt you want. So I think there may be some truth to a "biological drive for adequate salt intake," but that's assuming a person has access to, and is eating relatively whole, unadulturated, natural foods and not ingesting other non-natural chemicals. Once substances not found in nature, such as medications, processed foods, and table salt enter the equation, you can't rely on those physiological mechanisms anymore. And of course, when you're not following your natural instincts because you've been told NOT TO, that also changes the ballgame.



If my mother and I weren't on blood pressure medications, no doubt our sodium intake would be adequate. When I first had to take the sodium supplements, my doctor at the time told me that blood pressure medications either wash sodium or potassium out of the blood. Because the SAD (standard american diet) is much higher in sodium than potassium, most blood pressure medications are potassium-sparing rather than sodium-sparing.

In addition to the medications, we've both dieted most of our lives - and current diet culture (at least over the past 35 years) advocates drinking far more water than we'd naturally want to. My mom's water intoxication was directly linked to the fact that her WW leader told her that she had to compensate for every cup of coffee with TWO cups of additional water. Mom was only drinking about a gallon of liquids a day, but it was enough to deplete her sodium levels over time.

The kidney specialist called in (because water intoxication damages the kidneys), said he's seeing more and more cases of water intoxication because of dieting water myths. At one time, he said it was rare for even kidney specialists to see more than one case of water poisioning in a career, now even general practitioners are seeing it - and not just in the usual patients (extreme athletes, mentally ill with OCD water drinking compulsion, and people trying to wash illegal drugs from their system for a drug screen).

He pointed out that if coffee were that dehydrating, that people who drink only coffee (and there are plenty of them) would die of dehydration, and they don't. He pointed out (in argument against the water-only advocates) that in the Middle Ages no one drank water, because water wasn't safe. Adults and even children met their fluid needs through foods and soup and beer (because the water for both were boiled, but the people didn't know about boiling water).

In a natural world, when we're following our instincts and the good example of people around us following thousands if not millions of years of tradition - I think we do tend to eat what we need - but our current diet and lifestyles (and the beliefs that guide them) are so far from natural, that we can't rely on those instincts - especially since we don't eat foods we would if we had to rely on a natural diet (insects, all parts of the animal including organ meats, blood, bone, and skin, and tons of plants that we consider weeds and twigs).

Many years ago, there was a study done that found that toddlers given access to a wide variety of foods, allowed to eat whatever they chose, chose a balanced diet. That study was used to argue that humans had an instinct for a balanced diet.

Modern studies however found this only to be true when natural, whole foods were offerred (as was done in the original study). When "junk food" and processed foods enter the mix - babies don't choose a varied, balanced diet - they choose the processed foods (the addictive flavor combination David Kessler describes in his book The End of Overeating - sugar or starch/fat/salt).

When you combine the flavor/food combination of carbs/fat/salt, people tend to eat far more than they would otherwise (Kessler calls it "conditioned hypereating").

To some degree, humans have always gravitated towards this flavor combination in "celebration foods," but historically they were expensive and difficult to obtain and prepare. People had to work very hard (expend a lot of energy) to acquire these foods, so they were never a large part of the diet).

We've created such an artificial world that are instincts don't work well in it.
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Old 08-21-2011, 07:12 PM   #12
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A while back I did a lot of research into the data on salt and in a nutshell here is the deal.

Dramatically lowering salt intake will decrease blood pressure in most people. Not a huge amount - but it's there.

Increasing salt intake will increase blood pressure only in those people who are "salt sensative".

Thus - if you're not salt sensative - I wouldn't really worry too much about salt.

The only time to worry about salt for most people is if you're planning on going on an ultra restrictive diet such as a PSMF in which case it is important to make sure you're getting enough sodium.
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Old 08-21-2011, 07:14 PM   #13
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I don't add salt to food, but I definitely don't avoid it. I just have to watch because I get the worst cramps in my legs if I don't keep my salt up. It's an awful way to be woken up in the middle of the night
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Old 08-21-2011, 08:54 PM   #14
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I have been reading about salt intake and the things I've read, mostly naturopathic, are that salt isn't the enemy. It's the imbalance between salt and potassium. Our diets today are high in salt and low in potassium, but if you get enough potassium to balance out sodium, water retention goes away and your adrenals begin to function normally again, where they will eliminate any salt your body doesn't need on their own. Now, I'm playing with this. I'm leaving my salt intake alone and increasing potassium to about 4500 mg per day. We'll see what happens, but salt is not the enemy it once was. I'm not saying follow this, I am simply sharing my experience and what I read. You should always follow your doctors advice though, or maybe see one again or a nutritionist.
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Old 08-22-2011, 01:53 AM   #15
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I'm not terribly salt sensitive, have low blood pressure and tend to exercise a lot. I have no real reason to give up salt. I dont eat a lot of commercially processed foods, but I do eat a lot of homemade salsa and pickles etc. and I like the salt shaker

Salt is definitely an acquired taste. I did not salt my food as a kid and now I salt a lot. I would have a harder time giving up salt than sugar.
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