by Andrew Scallion
Have you ever worried about high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, chronic fatigue, pneumonia or kidney or liver failure?
Or, maybe you suffer from type 2 diabetes, insomnia or even low libido.
If any of these conditions apply to you, maybe you should ask yourself if you are getting enough salt in your diet.
Mr. Chair, fellow toastmasters and welcome guests.
Salt. We all consume it everyday. Whether shaken on your order of fries or as a naturally occurring element in your steamed broccoli. Salt is everywhere. And its important. So important in fact, that in its absence many of our bodily systems would cease to run efficiently… or even run at all.
So, why is it that the government and health authorities are telling us we need to reduce the amount of salt we consume or even adopt low sodium diets?
The theory that high sodium intake could be dangerous is credible and worth exploring. However, presently there is no proof this is true. Government wants to regulate how much sodium we get in our diets. The current recommended daily maximum is 2300 mg, roughly the equivalent of a teaspoon of table salt. That is 17% below the lowest level of sodium intake worldwide and a startling 38% below the worldwide average. But has anyone considered the ramifications to society of not having enough dietary salt.
There have been many studies done on the links between salt and health. But they touch on a very small part of an extremely complex relationship between sodium and our bodies. None of the studies done make the case for assuming that higher salt consumption leads to harmful health effects. For example, no study has ever shown that higher salt consumption increases death rates from cardiovascular disease, heart attack or from any other causes.
Only one study, conducted by the cardiovascular centre at cornell university in the 1990’s, followed hypertensive patients on a low sodium diet. The conclusion, those who consumed more sodium had less risk of a heart attack. The 25% of male patients who consumed the least amount of sodium had four times as many heart attacks as the 25% who consumed the most.
Sodium controls the the fluids in our bodies. It regulates blood pressure and the pressure inside and outside our cells to keep them from collapsing or exploding. And in doing this, Sodium must maintain itself at a very precise balance. So it makes us crave salty snacks when its too low and if its too high, the excess comes out in our urine.
It also effects different people in different ways. African Americans, for example, are thought to be salt sensitive meaning higher sodium intake has more of an effect on blood pressure. Whereas the kuna Indians of Panama, when studied in the 1940’s had a diet very low in sodium and regular blood pressure. Now 50 years later with salt consumption at norh American levels the average blood pressure has remained stable.
Dr. Michael Alderman, former president of the International Society of Hypertension and current editor in cheif of the American journal of hypertension believes that lowering salt levels across the board when every individual responds differently to salt in his estimation is foolhardy.
Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Alderman explains that the health effects of sodium reduction will only be beneficial if reducing our intake of sodium kills fewer people than it saves.
Salt has been an essential part of the human condition forever. It has been used for centuries as a preservative for food and is a very important culinary component of nearly every culture on earth.
It is historical fact that a societies access to salt is in direct correlation to its overall wellbeing and to its longevity. The Japanese, who consume more salt than almost any other nation on earth, are the most long lived society on the planet. And the Jewish people, whose salt laced kosher foods keep their salt intake high are not far behind.
To have government, health authorities and low-sodium advocates regulate sodium intake based more on poorly studied beliefs then on scientific evidence seems , to me at least, bad judgement. So, the next time you are at the dinner table thinking, should i pass on the salt? Don’t, speak up and say Pass the salt!
Andrew Scallion has helped Richmond Toastmasters go back to the sushi bar, unafraid of piling on the soy sauce. Great speech, Andrew! Thanks for sharing.