Healthy Salt For Better Blood Pressure

I think it's high time I spoke about salt again.

I had a client the other day whose husband has blood pressure concerns and so she was looking to lower the amount of sodium in his diet. I mentioned the benefits of changing to an unrefined salt for the sake of blood pressure. A little skeptical, she asked if there were any studies that showed the benefits. I wasn't sure, so I told her I'd look into it.

Low and behold, Dr. Robert J. Rowen's newsletter comes to my inbox this morning talking about "The China Salt Substitute Study". A Chinese study was published in the journal Hypertension Research which looked into the effects of pure salt (100% sodium chloride) versus a "salt substitute" (65% sodium chloride, 25% potassium chloride, 10% magnesium sulfate) on 600 high-risk hypertensive (high blood pressure) subjects over the course of one year. It's a good study too -- both randomized and controlled.

What did they find? Over the course of 12 months, the "salt substitute" significantly reduced peripheral and central systolic blood pressure (7.4 mm HG and 6.9 mm HG respectively) and also reduced arterial stiffness. Again, the subjects were still taking in sodium chloride, the only difference was that it was buffered by other minerals. So much for the theory that salt raises blood pressure.

While health "experts" are recommending significant reduction in salt consumption, clearly the real issue is balance of minerals. Straight sodium chloride has the effect of raising blood pressure, while sodium chloride with other minerals has no such effect. Dr. Rowen even suggests it may be a deficiency in potassium and magnesium that is really behind hypertension and not the sodium chloride itself. Now that sounds like something worth studying.

Some of you out there who are skeptical and know how to look up the mineral composition of unrefined sea salt may have already figured out that the mineral levels of natural salt does not resemble the "salt substitute" the subjects were using in the study. Very true. While the "salt substitute" was composed of 25% potassium chloride and 10% magnesium sulfate on top of sodium chloride, sea salt is only 3.68% magnesium and 1.11% potassium, along with a whole lot of other minerals, including the all-important trace minerals.

But before you call foul on my constant recommendations for unrefined sea salt, let me just add one more piece to the puzzle. The mineral ratio in unrefined salt very closely resembles the natural mineral balance of the human body. In other words, you'll be taking in minerals in a ratio very close to what you've already got in you.

Table salt (pure sodium chloride except for the chemical additives so it won't clump in your salt shaker) can cause an imbalance by pumping up levels of sodium in the body without a balance of other needed minerals. Conversely, unrefined salt -- like Celtic Sea Salt or Himilayan salt -- has a full compliment of minerals which provides a balance. Studies using actual unrefined salt rather than a proprietary mixture would be nice, but I know what's staying in my shaker.

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