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Obesity and the Salt Connection
What follows is a slightly modified version of an article I wrote for the monthly glossy magazine of Mensa, the high IQ society, of which I am a member. It was published in the December 2004 issue. Four months later, the April 2005 issue contained a letter from Joyce Barnard, who has given permission for her name to be used here. She wrote that by following the advice I had given her a few years earlier - i.e. that to lower her high blood pressure and lose weight she simply needed to eat less sodium - she had lost 5 stones in weight (70 pounds) in a year! - All she did was stop sprinkling salt onto her meals and use LoSalt instead of ordinary salt when cooking.
Many years ago I gained a great deal of weight because of taking HRT prescribed by my GPs, mainly on the advice of an endocrinologist. - I did not realise at the time that the weight gain was because of the medication. I became desperately ill and exhausted and had very high blood pressure for which I took Atenolol, a beta-blocker. I was so fat I could barely walk. Yet I was not overeating. My feet, hands and breasts were exquisitely painful and very red and swollen. I was unable to use my hands for many tasks. I needed a larger size in shoes. My face and neck became beetroot red and very swollen. I developed acne and eczema. I suffered from breathlessness.
Having never sprinkled salt on my food in my life, and never used it in cooking, in 1997 I became aware that there was a lot of salt in bread and cheese and breakfast cereals. Because of the connection between hypertension and salt intake I altered my eating to reduce, and eventually to exclude, all avoidable sodium. This lowered my blood pressure and I no longer needed to take Atenolol.
More spectacularly, and very unexpectedly to me, eating less salt reduced my weight by 51 pounds! - This was nothing to do with calories, fat or sugar. - The weight I lost was clearly water, which I worked out was held in my body by the salt - held in my veins, which had become massively distended and painful since I had embarked on the HRT.
I worked out that it was the oestrogen that had caused the sodium and water retention and this was confirmed when I looked in the British National Formulary for the side-effects of oestrogen. I then realised that oestrogen was a steroid, though it is not normally thought of in that category, and that the sodium and water retention came about because certain steroids and certain other prescribed drugs relax/weaken the walls of the blood vessels so that they take in excess salt and the water which accompanies it. I realised that I was a 'steroid victim'.
For many years I have been providing a free telephone helpline for people in pain in my area and for the last five years have been advising all callers to reduce their salt intake, particularly when they were obese. Their weight loss, too, has been dramatic and swift. One Mensa member whom I helped lost about a stone in a month just by eating less salt. Her dog, too, lost weight when she stopped salting his food!
I firmly believe that the massive rise in the incidence of obesity, especially child obesity, is due to the prevalence of salt in modern diets, mainly from manufactured foods, and that calorie counting and advice about reducing fat and sugar intake and increasing exercise are counter-productive.
But salt causes obesity only in vulnerable people, i.e. People whose veins are weak because of immaturity (babies, children), People whose veins are weak because of steroids or HRT or amitriptyline or certain other prescribed drugs, too readily prescribed, often in very high dose, People whose natural oestrogen levels are higher than normal (e.g. pregnant women). People whose blood vessel walls have been weakened by 'slimming' - i.e. eating insufficient food.
Inactivity does not cause obesity. Obesity causes inactivity.
In 2001 I wrote to MPs, to medical people, to journalists, to nutritionists and others, explaining that salt sensitivity is what causes obesity, and urging that the facts be made known, particularly to steroid victims. The powerful and influential people to whom I wrote have taken no action to give publicity to the life-saving message. The public is not being told the truth about weight gain and weight loss. The best, the healthiest, the safest way to lose weight is to concentrate on eating less salt (and more potassium).
An Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Oxford*, wrote back to me in August 2001 that I was right about steroids causing weight gain because of salt and water retention and that weight can be lost by eating less salt or by taking diuretics. Sadly he seems to be the only medic who knows this! - A book on salt, written by experts on hypertension and brought out in a blaze of publicity a few years ago makes no mention of steroid victims and specifically states, among other errors, that HRT does not cause a salt problem.
A person who gains weight has a higher calorie requirement. There are two reasons for this. Having to carry a greater mass around and service a more massive body uses more calories. And having a bigger surface area means greater heat loss, since heat lost is proportional to surface area. - A greater calorie requirement results in greater appetite/hunger, so, really, overweight people need to eat more than people of normal weight. If the overweight eat insufficient calories (ie if they 'diet') they may lose weight, but it is at the cost of being hungry. There has never been the slightest evidence that the practice of fewer calories in and more calories out by way of exercise reduces obesity! - It is often confidently stated that fat will be lost by doing this. - Sadly, what is more often lost is lean tissue, usually an irreversible adverse effect.
The result of the misunderstanding of the cause of obesity is the well-known fact that over 95% of dieters actually gain weight in the long term! - They cannot be expected to go hungry all the time. - Nor would staying hungry all the time benefit them. - With insufficient calories for the body's needs, the body feeds on itself. - The skin becomes thinner; the bones become less dense; there is some hair loss, etc.
Contrast this with the right way to lose weight - by eating less sodium. - Eating less sodium releases some of the excess water held in the blood stream. This lowers the blood pressure and, significantly, lowers the weight. - Weighing less results in a lower calorie requirement so very gradually less food is eaten and this becomes a virtuous circle because less food eaten results in lower sodium intake.
In societies in which no salt is eaten (what some might describe as undeveloped or uncivilised societies) there is no obesity and no hypertension.
The cavemen and women who were our ancestors lived for millennia without added salt. Our bodies evolved on a low sodium and high potassium intake. The modern diet has reversed this to high sodium and low potassium. The intake of salt has massively increased in recent years - as has the incidence of obesity.
I submit that the universal 'slimming' advice - to eat fewer calories/less fat/sugar - is a major cause of obesity. - All that is necessary to lose weight is to eat less salt/sodium. This is a drug-free, cost-free course of action. There are no hunger pangs and no adverse side-effects. It requires no visits to the doctor or to the gym and it WILL work.
Lose weight by eating less salt!-Go on!-Try it! My website www.wildeaboutsteroids.co.uk provides more details and advice.
Anyone is welcome to copy this article in whole or in part.
Originally posted by chiron613
Actually, there is no secret to weight loss. Most obesity is caused by eating too much of the wrong foods, and from inactivity. The only "secret" to weight loss is:
1. Eat less (take in fewer calories)
2. Eat healthier foods (more balanced nutrition)
3. Get adequate exercise daily.
Originally posted by Rawhemp
I lost 60 pounds over a 2 1/2 month time with very little exercise (walk acouple miles a week). My diet consisted of raw fruits, nuts and vegetables. I typically ate 2-4k calories a day.
The problem probably does have something to do with salt but its not really the culprit, what the salt does is make processed food extremely addictive
Originally posted by expat2368
There could be two reasons for obese Americans:
1. The Aliens have a big cookbook and they are fattening us up for 2012
2. The earlier posters are right about salt... except they forgot a couple of other issues. I now live in Moldova.. dirt poor ex-soviet union country between Romania and Ukraine. Very few obese... why? NO PRESERVATIVES allowed in the foods. NO HIGH FRUCTOSE Corn syrup. Lots of fruits and veggies. I lost weight when I moved here and did not reduce my food consumption. I can actually go to the market and buy processed chicken and pork and what do you know.. no salt, no nitrates, no preservatives of any kind. I can actually eat a piece of lunch meat without choking on salt. The soft drinks, even Coke and Pepsi are sweetened... with real SUGAR.
When I say NO PRESERVATIVES... I mean it.. NONE. So I can buy bread, cookies, crackers, juices, meat..etc.. all natural. You don't get the "shelf life" like twinkies have... but you don't get poisoned with all kinds of chemicals either.
Before coming here I viewed the Natural Food freaks as nutcases... I am a total convert. I figure a good part of the health problems people in the West have is due to food additives.
Originally posted by ladyinwaiting
Originally posted by Moodle
Is the "silly season" of US elections spilling over into anti-salt advocacy? Drs. Heikki Karppanen and Eero Mervaala assert that their study "refutes the frequently repeated claims that a comprehensive salt reduction would not produce any overall health benefits, or would even increase diseases and shorten the life span." It does no such thing.
As president of the Salt Institute, I should point out that we have made the argument frequently (and, apparently, someone is listening!) that observational studies of health outcomes fail to identify population health benefits at levels common in the North American diet -- and advocating a controlled trial of reduced salt diets to determine whether they decrease heart attacks and cardiovascular mortality.
That is the right question, but this claim that low-salt diets "would be a powerful means against obesity" is just over the top. Of course, if we made foods so unpalatable as to stop people from eating as much (as has been done with less-than-happy results in geriatric institutions) we might be able to link salt and body mass, but to assert "The increased intake of salt, through induction of thirst with increased intake of high-energy beverages has obviously remarkably contributed to the increase of obesity in the United States" with no evidence adduced to support the allegation is irresponsible.
The authors specifically cited Salt Institute statistics of U.S. salt sales saying that salt intake had increased "more than 50%" over a recent 15 year period. That's wrong. In response, I wrote Dr. Karppanen:
"Your concern with increased salt intakes is obviously misplaced. While salt intakes in the U.S. have increased in the past 15 years, they track population increases. The U.S. population is 300 million today. We've added 50 million in population in those years. I know population growth is something a bit foreign to your part of the world, but we've experienced a lot of immigration and natural population growth. Even so, our latest figures show food salt sales growth up 41%, not "over 50%" and while greater than the population growth, this does not account for US food salt which is exported in US processed foods, salt used in food processing and wastage. The better metric, as I'm sure you agree, is 24-hour urines and those in study after study show that baseline salt intakes per capita are unchanging generation after generation.
"Of course, correlation is not causation, but to correlate salt intake with the rise in obesity ignores evidence that those on higher salt diets are actually leaner than other Americans. Just as obviously, the longest-lived national population in the world, the Japanese, have much higher salt intakes than Americans. Your "obvious" correlation of salt intake and thirst and obesity makes interesting headlines, but sorry science."
The Finns claim salt reduction is responsible for increasing the life span of their compatriots by 7-8 years over the past one-third century. Let's keep in mind, Romans lived to an average age of 28. The Yanomamo people of the Brazilian jungles who are touted as low-salt-consuming models for our diet live only into their 30s. A century ago, Americans lived only 48 years on average while a century later we live 77 years on average. If Finland's medical and nutrition improvements parallel Americans, 7-8 years additional longevity over the past 30 years is just average, nothing to crow about -- nor to try to assign causation when none can be adduced from ecologic data.
Unfortunately, while preposterous charges amongst American politicians will likely abate after November 7th, there is no apparent reprieve from the anti-salt crowd.
Originally posted by whoshotJR
Salt is not the devil your making it out to be. Being healthy is about having a balanced lifestyle.
Sodium is a necessary mineral for muscle growth. More sodium enhances carbohydrate storage and amino acid absorption and improves your muscle's responsiveness to insulin
Basically if your body is low on sodium you have a harder to making muscle. Muscle causes your body to burn fat at a higher rate along with many other positive benefits.
Saying salt is the problem is like people blaming carbs ( ohh you did that also..)