Busting the Salt – Hypertension Myth

Cardiovascular Care

Nov 21
Man walks up a scary set of steps.

Busting the Salt – Hypertension Myth

It’s common knowledge that too much salt in your diet can lead to hypertension, or high blood pressure, just as it is common knowledge that too much saturated fat in your diet can lead to high cholesterol and heart attack.

Ahh … except that common knowledge is wrong, WRONG, WRONG.

At this site and in our newsletter we’ve debunked the “cholesterol myths,” so it would only make sense that we debunk the “salt myths” too.

One study, the Intersalt study conducted in 1984, in which “10,079 men and women aged 20-59 [were] sampled from 52 centres around the world” yada, yada, yada, showed a direct relationship between salt intake/excretion and blood pressure.

If you’ve read about Ancel Keys and his “lipid hypothesis,” you already know that the lipid hypothesis is only an hypothesis because it has never been proven. Keys attempted to prove it, medicine has readily accepted it (because it was treatable and profitable), but real scientists have gone over Keys’ data only to conclude that the data had been cherry picked.

Sadly the same thing happened in the Intersalt study; the data had been cherry picked.

If you take a look at this graph (courtesy of Intersalt), you’ll see that most of the dots make no conclusion as to salt intake and hypertension. However, it is the red dots that make up the “conclusions” to the entire Intersalt study.

With an increase in salt intake/excretion in THESE FOUR locations ONLY, they saw an increase in blood pressure. The thing is, these locations and their diets were so far from, so different from, the rest of the people in the study, they should have been rejected by the study, but instead led those conducting the study to end up comparing apples to airplanes, or as David Freedman, a statistician from Berkeley put it:

The “salt hypothesis” is that higher levels of salt in the diet lead to higher levels of blood pressure, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Intersalt, a crosssectional study of salt levels and blood pressures in 52 populations, is often cited to support the salt hypothesis, but the data are somewhat contradictory. Four of the populations (Kenya, Papua, and two Indian tribes in Brazil) do have low levels of salt and blood pressure. Across the other 48 populations, however, blood pressures go down as salt levels go up—contradicting the hypothesis. Experimental evidence suggests that the effect of a large reduction in salt intake on blood pressure is modest, and health consequences remain to be determined. Funding agencies and medical journals have taken a stronger position favoring the salt hypothesis than is warranted, raising questions about the interaction between the policy process and science. [http://www.stat.berkeley.edu/~census/573.pdf]

He’s right. A recent study, 2011, published in JAMA showed that as salt intake increases, blood pressure decreases and the risk of heart disease is 56% greater for people with a low salt intake (the exact opposite of what doctors and dietitians have been telling us for years).

And if you do have cardiovascular disease (CVD), this study, from 2006, published in the American Journal of Medicine, shows us that the lower your sodium levels, the higher mortality rates.

Is There A Salt-Hypertension Connection At All?

From one of our articles (published well over 10 years ago) on Stubborn Hypertension (i_Link), we get the following:

…at the Hypertension Center of the New York-Cornell Medical Center, the research of Dr John H. Laragh, M.D shows that the High Blood Pressure (HBP) problem lies in an overactive hormone system and not in salt intake. In most patients with HBP, the system is over active, and high levels of renin (a protein-digesting enzyme released by the kidney) raises blood pressure levels. Salt levels in the body are also reduced in this condition, and if the patient is put on a low salt diet, salt starvation could occur, and this is a deadly condition. Only in one third of hypertensive people (those who have low renin levels) will sodium excess be found. This group should lower their sodium intake, but not end it completely. The human body needs salt to survive.

Salt Restriction Might Aggravate Type II Diabetes

In a small study of 21 people with high blood pressure, one group was given 2 grams salt daily while the control group got a placebo four times a day for four weeks. Their blood glucose levels were were tested and those who received the salt showed an 8% cut in their glucose. The results were even higher in those who were diabetic. As for those taking the placebo, the study concluded “salt restriction may result in insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance or a worsening of type II (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes in certain patients.” [Am J Hypertens, 2001; 14: 653-9]

Can Salt Be Bad For Us?

In our article on Celtic Sea Salt, we point out that the first time Dr Albert Schweitzer found cancer in Africa, he suspected the American canned food they’d been eating; specifically the salt.

White, processed salt is terrible for our health for the following reasons:

  • It is void of minerals;
  • It is 97.5% sodium;
  • 2.5% of white, table salt is chemicals from the extraction of the minerals and to prevent water absorption, and has added iodine (over which there are huge disagreements).

This is why we recommend Celtic Sea Salt, and Alaea Sea Salt, because they are charged with minerals, have a better potassium/sodium ratio, and contain no chemicals.


Today’s date is July 30, 2014. The reason I point this out is that, if you get health newsletters online, you will run across a paper like this one that talks about the “salt hypothesis” in order to bring your attention to Aztec Sea Salt.

It’s a good product. I’ve checked it out. However, it is not as good as Celtic Sea Salt or any of the others we recommend. The reason you’ll hear about Aztec Sea Salt is the people selling it (through an affiliate program) are making 50% off of every sale. They can do this because the price of the Aztec Sea Salt has been bumped up. It’s overpriced and super hyped; in fact, for the past seven months I’ve been told there are limited quantities (that have somehow stuck around for seven months). If you think about it, everything exists in limited quantities.

I get my Celtic Sea Salt from Simply the Best. They have the best price on the web even when you factor in shipping.

We just don’t want you to waste your money on the hype.