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A cartoon salt shaker with a smiling face is on the left side of the image. To the right, bold text asks, "MORE SALT, NOT LESS?" In the bottom right corner, there is a small illustration of ten almonds.

More Salt, Not Less?

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It’s Q&A Day at 10almonds!

Have a question or a request? We love to hear from you!

In cases where we’ve already covered something, we might link to what we wrote before, but will always be happy to revisit any of our topics again in the future too—there’s always more to say!

As ever: if the question/request can be answered briefly, we’ll do it here in our Q&A Thursday edition. If not, we’ll make a main feature of it shortly afterwards!

So, no question/request too big or small 😎

❝I’m curious about the salt part – learning about LMNT and what they say about us needing more salt than what’s recommended by the government, would you mind looking into that? From a personal experience, I definitely noticed a massive positive difference during my 3-5 day water fasts when I added salt to my water compared to when I just drank water. So I’m curious what the actual range for salt intake is that we should be aiming for.❞

That’s a fascinating question, and we’ll have to tackle it in several parts:

When fasting

3–5 days is a long time to take only water; we’re sure you know most people fast from food for much less time than that. Nevertheless, when fasting, the body needs more water than usual—because of the increase in metabolism due to freeing up bodily resources for cellular maintenance. Water is necessary when replacing cells (most of which are mostly water, by mass), and for ferrying nutrients around the body—as well as escorting unwanted substances out of the body.

Normally, the body’s natural osmoregulatory process handles this, balancing water with salts of various kinds, to maintain homeostasis.

However, it can only do that if it has the requisite parts (e.g. water and salts), and if you’re fasting from food, you’re not replenishing lost salts unless you supplement.

Normally, monitoring our salt intake can be a bit of a guessing game, but when fasting for an entire day, it’s clear how much salt we consumed in our food that day: zero

So, taking the recommended amount of sodium, which varies but is usually in the 1200–1500mg range (low end if over aged 70+; high end if aged under 50), becomes sensible.

More detail: How Much Sodium You Need Per Day

See also, on a related note:

When To Take Electrolytes (And When We Shouldn’t!)

When not fasting

Our readers here are probably not “the average person” (since we have a very health-conscious subscriber-base), but the average person in N. America consumes about 9g of salt per day, which is several multiples of the maximum recommended safe amount.

The WHO recommends no more than 5g per day, and the AHA recommends no more than 2.3g per day, and that we should aim for 1.5g per day (this is, you’ll note, consistent with the previous “1200–1500mg range”).

Read more: Massive efforts needed to reduce salt intake and protect lives

Questionable claims

We can’t speak for LMNT (and indeed, had to look them up to discover they are an electrolytes supplement brand), but we can say that sometimes there are articles about such things as “The doctor who says we should eat more salt, not less”, and that’s usually about Dr. James DiNicolantonio, a doctor of pharmacy, who wrote a book that, because of this question today, we’ve now also reviewed:

The Salt Fix: Why the Experts Got It All Wrong—and How Eating More Might Save Your Life – by Dr. James DiNicolantonio

Spoiler, our review was not favorable.

The body knows

Our kidneys (unless they are diseased or missing) do a full-time job of getting rid of excess things from our blood, and dumping them into one’s urine.

That includes excess sugar (which is how diabetes was originally diagnosed) and excess salt. In both cases, they can only process so much, but they do their best.

Dr. DiNicolantino recognizes this in his book, but chalks it up to “if we do take too much salt, we’ll just pass it in urine, so no big deal”.

Unfortunately, this assumes that our kidneys have infinite operating capacity, and they’re good, but they’re not that good. They can only filter so much per hour (it’s about 1 liter of fluids). Remember we have about 5 liters of blood, consume 2–3 liters of water per day, and depending on our diet, several more liters of water in food (easy to consume several more liters of water in food if one eats fruit, let alone soups and stews etc), and when things arrive in our body, the body gets to work on them right away, because it doesn’t know how much time it’s going to have to get it done, before the next intake comes.

It is reasonable to believe that if we needed 8–10g of salt per day, as Dr. DiNicolantonio claims, our kidneys would not start dumping once we hit much, much lower levels in our blood (lower even than the daily recommended intake, because not all of the salt in our body is in our blood, obviously).

See also: How Too Much Salt Can Lead To Organ Failure

Lastly, a note about high blood pressure

This is one where the “salt’s not the bad guy” crowd have at least something close to a point, because while salt is indeed still a bad guy (if taken above the recommended amounts, without good medical reason), when it comes to high blood pressure specifically, it’s not the worst bad guy, nor is it even in the top 5:

Hypertension: Factors Far More Relevant Than Salt

Thanks for writing in with such an interesting question!

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