What does salt do to you

Too much salt in the body: what are the consequences?

Status: 11/22/2019 7:17 p.m. | archive
Too much salt in food can lead to serious illnesses in the long run.

A little salt is vital, but too much of it is harmful to the body. Many people react to long-term excessive salt consumption with high blood pressure, and the risk of cardiovascular diseases increases. The kidneys, which excrete excess salt, are also stressed. And the composition of the bacteria in the intestine, the microbiome, can also change as a result of too much salt.

Most people eat too much salt

In Germany, every man consumes an average of 10 grams of table salt (sodium chloride) per day through their diet, and every woman 8.4 grams. That is far above the recommendation of the German Nutrition Society of six grams per day. In the USA, experts even recommend it only five grams of table salt a day.

Why sodium, chloride, and potassium are important

The body needs the electrolytes sodium, chloride and potassium to maintain the water, electrolyte and acid-base balance and the tissue tension.

  • Sodium and potassium play vital roles in the functioning of annoy and Muscles: They enable the build-up of electrical voltage on the cell membranes and thus the transmission of nerve impulses - important for muscle contractions, heart function and the regulation of blood pressure.
  • Sodium is also an active ingredient Cell transport involved.
  • Chloride is part of the Stomach acid.
  • As a so-called cofactor of enzymes, potassium plays an important role in Production of proteins and glycogen.
  • Also for that Fluid balance, the digestion and the Bone structure the body needs salt.

What happens if there is a lack of salt?

A salt intake of less than three grams per day is a health hazard, especially if sodium is lost at the same time. With fever, vomiting and diarrhea, the body loses water and salts. The most common cause of sodium deficiency, however, is medication such as water tablets, antihypertensive drugs, antidepressants, and anti-epileptic drugs.

If the sodium content in the blood falls below a critical level (hyponatremia), dizziness, balance and orientation disorders occur. The movements are slowed down, the risk of falling increases. It is not uncommon for the symptoms of sodium deficiency to be confused with the onset of dementia. A simple blood test can reveal dangerous sodium deficiency.

Elderly people are particularly affected: they eat and drink less and thus also consume less salt.

How too much salt works in the body

Constant consumption of too much salt can harm the body:

  • Blood pressure: An excessively high salt intake has been shown to increase the risk of high blood pressure - one of the main risk factors for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes. . Blood pressure tablets often work better if you eat less salt. However, not all people with high blood pressure respond in the same way to salt consumption. While abstaining from salt has a clearly measurable effect on blood pressure for some people, it is of little consequence for others. The reason for this has not yet been clarified.
  • Obesity: As a flavor enhancer, salt stimulates the appetite and can thus promote the development of obesity. For example, chips and flips consist of a certain mixture of carbohydrates, fat and salt, enriched with flavorings and colorings, sugar and spices. This mixture is also known as the "feeding formula" and makes us stop eating because it affects our feeling of fullness and activates the reward system in the brain.
  • Gut and immune system: An excess of table salt also affects the composition of the intestinal microbiome. Too much table salt significantly reduces the number of lactobacilli in the intestine, at the same time the number of so-called Th17 helper cells in the blood increases. These immune cells are suspected of raising blood pressure and promoting inflammation and autoimmune diseases. The massive increase in the number of Th17 cells indicates an increased inflammatory response in the body. So the microbiome appears to be an important factor in salt-influenced diseases.

There is a lot of salt in these foods

But avoiding salt is not that easy. Because salting the pasta water or adding salt to food only accounts for a maximum of 20 percent of our consumption. Most of the salt - around 80 percent - is found in processed foods such as bread, cheese, sausage, ready-made sauces and, above all, ready-made meals such as pizza. The problem is that it is hardly measurable and difficult to estimate how much salt we are consuming. And it is very difficult to find out the salt content of every single food.

Potassium instead of sodium can lower blood pressure

The salts sodium chloride (table salt) and potassium chloride have an opposite effect on blood pressure. While sodium chloride increases blood pressure, a diet rich in potassium can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke in people with high blood pressure. However, increased potassium intake is not suitable for people with severe kidney disease.

Prefer foods high in potassium

To prevent high blood pressure and stroke, the German Nutrition Society recommends adding more foods to the menu that naturally contain little sodium but a lot of potassium:

  • Vegetables and fruits are generally rich in potassium and low in sodium, regardless of whether they are fresh or frozen.
  • Vegetables and fruits such as apricots, bananas, carrots, kohlrabi and tomatoes are particularly high in potassium.
  • The potassium content is even higher in concentrated form, for example in tomato paste or dried fruit.
  • There is also a lot of potassium in potatoes, hazelnuts, cashew nuts, almonds and peanuts.
  • Potassium-rich types of flour are spelled, rye and buckwheat wholemeal flour.
  • Dark chocolate is also high in potassium.

Tips for less salt in your food

Salt consumption can be reduced with simple measures:

  • Avoid processed foods.
  • First season food with spices and herbs, this saves salt.
  • Salt consumption is a matter of getting used to: it takes a while for low-salt dishes to taste pleasantly spicy.

Experts on the subject

Dr. Niels Schulz-Ruhtenberg, specialist in general medicine, nutritional medicine and sports medicine
Doctors practice at the Kaiserkai
At the Kaiserkai 46
20457 Hamburg
(040) 64 66 17 60

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Wenzel, senior physician
III. Medical clinic and polyclinic (nephrology / rheumatology with endocrinology section)
Center for Internal Medicine
University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf
Martinistrasse 52
20246 Hamburg

Prof. Dr. Matthias Laudes, senior physician
Head of Endocrinology, Diabetology and Clinical Nutritional Medicine
Clinic for Internal Medicine I
University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein, Campus Kiel
Arnold-Heller-Strasse 3
24105 Kiel

Hendrik Bartolomaeus, scientist
Research group "Hypertension-related target organ damage"
Experimental and Clinical Research Center
Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC)
Robert-Rössle-Strasse 10
13092 Berlin

additional Information
German Hypertension League e.V. DHL - German Hypertension Society
Berliner Strasse 46
69120 Heidelberg
(06221) 58 85 55 (cardiovascular phone Mon-Fri 9 am-5pm)
List of certified hypertension centers and blood pressure specialists
Prevention magazine "Druckpunkt" (appears quarterly)

German Nutrition Society V.
Godesberger Allee 18
53175 Bonn

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