Sodium is one of the major minerals that your body needs to function effectively. This mineral helps your organs maintain water balance while aiding muscle relaxation and contraction. However, it has health consequences when consumed in high amounts.
We can find sodium naturally in various foods, but it is most abundant in sodium chloride, also known as table salt. There is up to 400 mg of sodium in just a pinch of table salt. This article examines the health impact of a high-sodium diet.
The amount of sodium you need daily varies depending on age, sex, and stage of life. The American Heart Association warns adults against taking more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium daily. However, the association recommends an ideal limit of 1,500 mg per day for most adults.
The recommended amount is considered safe and adequate, meaning it meets the body’s daily needs and prevents you from the risks associated with high sodium intake. Studies show that people with health conditions like heart failure, as well as liver or kidney disease, are likely to experience fatal effects when they eat more than 10 grams of sodium a day.
Eating too much sodium from a single meal or over the course of the day has the following consequences:
Overeating sodium in a short time may make you feel bloated. This is because your kidneys need to maintain a certain sodium-to-water ratio. Therefore, they hold more water to make up for the high sodium you consume.
The increased water retention from your kidney may cause swelling in your hands and feet. You may also weigh more for a short period.
A sodium-rich meal can cause increased blood flow through your blood vessels and arteries, causing a short-term rise in blood pressure. However, not everyone will experience these effects. Research has shown that people who are salt-resistant are unlikely to experience high blood pressure after eating salt-rich foods.
Your salt sensitivity is influenced by various factors, including genetics and hormones. Aging and obesity may also increase your chances of suffering temporary high blood pressure after consuming too much sodium.
Eating a high-sodium meal may cause you to feel thirsty. This is as a result of your body encouraging you to drink more water to regulate the ratio of sodium to water. As a result of your high water intake, you’re likely to urinate more often than usual during the day.
On the other hand, if you fail to drink water after consuming a high amount of sodium, your body’s mineral concentration may rise to an unsafe level. High body sodium causes hypernatremia, a condition where water leaks out of your cells into your blood to dilute the excess sodium.
Below are health issues associated with eating a high-sodium diet over the long term.
Research has shown that sodium-rich diets may increase your blood pressure, and reducing the amount of the mineral in your diet can help lower blood pressure levels. Furthermore, a review found that cutting your salt intake to 4.4 grams daily may lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 4.18 mm Hg and 2.06 mm Hg, respectively.
Furthermore, experts observed two times the blood pressure reductions in individuals with high blood pressure compared to people with normal blood pressure. They note that obesity and aging may amplify the risk of high blood pressure after consuming a sodium-rich diet.
There is some controversy regarding the link between high-sodium diets and heart disease. Some studies show that high sodium intake causes a rise in blood pressure and the stiffening of blood vessels. In turn, these factors may lead to a higher risk of heart disease and even premature death.
One study found that participants who ate less than 5.8 grams of salt daily had lower mortality than those who consumed more than 15 grams daily. However, other studies note that there may be no relationship between increased salt intake and heart disease or death.
Several studies have established links between a high sodium diet and a higher risk of stomach cancer. A review involving more than 268,000 participants found that eating more than 3 grams of table salt daily may increase your risk of stomach cancer by 68%.
Another study further showed that people with high salt intakes might have a twice higher risk of stomach cancer than those with a lower salt intake. Experts believe that high-sodium diets may make you more susceptible to stomach cancer by causing inflammation in the stomach lining.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 9 out of 10 Americans eat more sodium than they should, and chances are you may also be consuming a high-sodium diet. To keep your sodium levels in check, ensure that you read labels to check the sodium content and choose spices and seasonings without sodium.