Why is too much salt bad for our health?

The excessive ingestion of salt (sodium chloride) has been known to be a risk factor in the development of high blood pressure for decades. There is compelling evidence from a multitude of studies indicating a relation of high sodium intake, high blood pressure and the occurrence of cardiovascular disease. On the other hand low salt diets exhibit a blood pressure lowering effect. What is the reason for this? Which factors cause the rise in blood pressure?


Scientists of the University of Otago in New Zealand decided to bring light into this issue. They argued that if a salt restricted diet lowers the high blood pressure of affected individuals, an increased salt intake should cause a rise of the blood pressure. Accompanying a low sodium diet, 35 participants either received tomato juice rich or low in sodium for several weeks.

High sodium intake increases blood pressure

The results of the study clearly confirmed their assumption. High amounts of sodium in the range of what we consume on a daily basis significantly raised the blood pressure in comparison to a low sodium diet. Some participants even had to drop out of the study prematurely due to alarmingly high blood pressure levels.

There is a possible explanation: Salt seems to negatively affect the elasticity of the arteries. Other studies showed that the elasticity improves again after only one to two weeks on a salt restricted diet. To date it is unknown why salt has this effect on the arterial walls. More research needs to be done. Meanwhile individuals with high blood pressure and people from high risk groups with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, renal disease and obesity should carefully monitor their salt intake. The reduction of salt is not the only factor with a beneficial effect on the blood pressure, many other nutrients play a role, e.g. potassium or certain vitamins.

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