"Don't put too much salt, the doctor says it's bad for you" is an all too familiar phrase. How can salt be such an enemy when it has been present in every of our meals since we were born? In the next few lines, we will detail why sodium has such a bad reputation and why we should control our consumption. 


Salt is normally composed of 40% sodium and 60% chloride. When people say that salt is bad for you, they think about sodium. Although Sodium consumption is necessary for an efficient balance of liquids in our body, excessive consumption can lead to serious diseases. Recommended daily consumption of sodium is about 2,4g per day (6 grams of table salt). The average consumption is twice as high. Following the World Health Organization, high consumption of sodium increases blood pressure, which then is the first cause of cardiovascular diseases such as strokes and heart attacks.


80% of the sodium we consume is being added in our food by the industry. We call this the "hidden consumption". Consumers added the remaining 20% during cooking and eating. Following Euromonitor, the main source of sodium for an adult are cereals and cereal products, including bread. Second come meat and meat products, with bacon and ham leading the category. Sauces, dressings and condiments along with soups and pickles are included in “others”.


Human beings are believed to be programmed to eat and metabolize both plant and animal foods. It is believed that the genetic program, which has remained essentially unchanged for at least the past 100000 years, is best compatible with unprocessed mixed foods. According to this hypothesis, marked man-made changes in the composition of foods and diets would cause, or at least predispose to, a number of pathologic conditions, including elevated blood pressure.

The sodium content of a daily diet, composed of ingredients not artificially enriched by salt, ranges between 0,23g and 0,8g. It is almost impossible to compose a diet consisting of unprocessed natural foodstuffs to provide sodium in excess of 1.2 g a day. Therefore, on the basis of the variation of sodium content in diets consisting of natural foodstuffs without artificial additions, one could expect that our genetic mechanisms are programmed to sodium intake levels that are lower than 1.2 g a day.

Blood pressure serves 2 important functions in the body. One is maintenance of tissue perfusion. The other important and extremely potent function is control of sodium balance, which largely determines the extracellular fluid volume. By increasing the blood pressure level, the body is able to get rid of excess sodium and water. This explains how the high sodium diets can have the effect of increased blood pressure.


The entire text of 'Brief Natural History' comes from an article by professors Heikki Karppanen and Eero Mervaala from the Institute of Biomedicine, Pharmacology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland, and Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Kuopio, Kuopio, Finland. Published in 2006 by Elsevier.

Article: "Sodium Intake and Hypertension"