Find out if you’re really being manipulated.
Should you avoid salt? Some sources claim it isn’t as bad for your health as once thought. David Trachtenbarg, MD, UnityPoint Health, says having too much salt in your diet is entirely possible, and while you do need some salt in your body, he explains the reasons why watching your salt intake still matters.
What’s Too Much Salt?
On average, Dr. Trachtenbarg says most people consume between 9,000-12,000 milligrams of sodium a day, roughly over three times the recommended amount. He suggests keeping daily sodium levels at 2,300 milligrams maximum, with less than 1,500 milligrams being preferred, especially for adults with high blood pressure.
“For most people, there are no side effects of having too much sodium,” Dr. Trachtenbarg says. “But, that doesn’t mean salt can’t have a negative effect on the body.”
He lists the health impacts of consuming excess sodium:
- Blood pressure. Eating too much salt is linked to hypertension, or high blood pressure. Reducing salt intake to 5,000-6,000 milligrams per day has shown to lower blood pressure.
- Heart health. If you have heart disease or congestive heart failure, extra salt can cause fluid retention, which can lead to shortness of breath and hospitalization.
- Kidney function. If you have kidney disease, too much salt in your diet may cause you to retain fluid, leading to weight gain and bloating.
- Diabetes. While not directly connected to blood sugar, eating too much salt increases the risk of complications from diabetes.
“Nearly every processed food has added salt,” Dr. Trachtenbarg says. “When eating processed foods, it’s important to look at the amount of sodium listed on the nutrition label.”
How to Reduce Sodium Intake
The simplest way to reduce the amount of salt in your diet is avoiding processed foods and not adding salt to your meal. Dr. Trachtenbarg encourages you to look closely at nutritional labels, staying away from foods with high salt content, like bacon and large pickles.
“Reduced sodium or low-sodium foods can help reduce blood pressure, but foods with close to zero salt are often tasteless. The good news is if you limit salt intake, your body becomes more sensitive to the salt in food. This means many processed foods may become too salty for your taste, and you can enjoy lower sodium foods without missing the flavor,” Dr. Trachtenbarg says.
Other common beliefs about reducing sodium don’t hold as much promise. Dr. Trachtenbarg lists why the following steps don’t balance out salt consumption.
- Drinking more water. Extra water doesn’t “wash out” the salt. High salt intake can lead to bloating and fluid retention.
- Sweating it out. There’s about 500 milligrams of salt in a pound of sweat. Normally, only a very few athletic people will sweat a significant amount of salt. Even though exercising in high temperatures produces more sweat and salt, it can also lead to heat stroke, which can be fatal.
- Using “healthy” salt options. Sea salt is often talked about as being a better sodium option. And, while sea salt does have a different element make-up than salt (sodium chloride), there’s no clear benefit of choosing sea salt over regular table salt.
As for those who say at least salt is better than sugar, Dr. Trachtenbarg says that isn’t
Because underarm antiperspirants or deodorants are applied near the breast and contain potentially harmful ingredients, several scientists and others have suggested a possible connection between their use and breast cancer (1, 2). However, no scientific evidence links the use of these products to the development of breast cancer.
Aluminum-based compounds are used as the active ingredient in antiperspirants. These compounds form a temporary “plug” within the sweat duct that stops the flow of sweat to the skin’s surface. Some research suggests that aluminum-containing underarm antiperspirants, which are applied frequently and left on the skin near the breast, may be absorbed by the skin and have estrogen-like (hormonal) effects (3).
Because estrogen can promote the growth of breast cancer cells, some scientists have suggested that the aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may contribute to the development of breast cancer (3). In addition, it has been suggested that aluminum may have direct activity in breast tissue (4). However, no studies to date have confirmed any substantial adverse effects of aluminum that could contribute to increased breast cancer risks. A 2014 review concluded there was no clear evidence showing that the use of aluminum-containing underarm antiperspirants or cosmetics increases the risk of breast cancer (5).
Some research has focused on parabens, which are preservatives used in some deodorants and antiperspirants that have been shown to mimic the activity of estrogen in the body’s cells (6). It has been reported that parabens are found in breast tumors, but there is no evidence that they cause breast cancer. Although parabens are used in many cosmetic, food, and pharmaceutical products, most deodorants and antiperspirants in the United States do not currently contain parabens. The National Library of Medicine’s Household Products Database has information about the ingredients used in most major brands of deodorants and antiperspirants.