Spring 2013 True Natural Health Magazine – Your Questions Answered
By Roger French
QUESTION: I know that ordinary table salt raises blood pressure, but what about an unrefined salt like Celtic sea salt? Does it lower blood pressure?
Surprisingly, this is a ticklish question.
Public health experts tell us not to add salt at all. On the ABC ‘Health and Wellbeing’ program, 23-11-2010, Professor Bruce Neal, chair of the Australian Division of World Action on Salt was asked if sea salt is a healthy exception to this advice. His reply was, “No. These fancy salts are just a more expensive way of doing yourself harm.”
As with plain salt, continued Prof. Neal, the vast majority of ‘designer’ salts are mostly sodium chloride. They’re about 40 percent sodium, and it’s sodium that raises your blood pressure.
However, there is also medical opinion that is quite the opposite.
Dr David Brownstein, MD, delves into the merits of sea salts in his book, Salt Your Way to Health. He writes:
“A review of the research literature, as well as my own clinical experiences, have convinced me that unrefined salt is vital to good health. I began to research the medical literature about salt, and what I found was astounding. There is little data to support low-salt diets as being effective at treating hypertension for the vast majority of people. None of the studies looked at the use of unrefined sea salt, which contains many valuable minerals, including magnesium and potassium, which are vital to maintaining normal blood pressure.
“Many minerals, including magnesium and potassium, have a direct anti-hypertensive effect. The government-conducted National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) revealed that low mineral intake, specifically of magnesium, potassium and calcium, is directly associated with hypertension. Repeated measurements over 20 years have confirmed the relationship between low mineral intake and elevated blood pressure.”
Altogether, unrefined sea salt contains around 84 minerals, including iodine, calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron and zinc. In contrast, refined table salt comprises just two minerals, sodium and chlorine, making it extremely unbalanced.
“Unrefined salt will not cause elevated blood pressure,” declares Dr Brownstein. “In fact, due to its abundance of minerals, it can actually help lower the blood pressure in hypertensive patients.”
An adequate supply of magnesium ensures that unused sodium is promptly eliminated via the kidneys.
“However,” continues Dr Brownstein, “hypertensive patients can improve blood pressure moderately by limiting their sodium intake. Too much of anything can be a problem for the body. Salt, like any other substance, should not be taken in excess. Since refined salt is a toxic substance, there should not be any refined salt in anyone’s diet.”
One view is that the blood-pressure-raising effect of table salt can be due to its high content of sodium without enough magnesium to balance it. The high sodium has a magnesium-lowering effect that can constrict the arteries and raise blood pressure. (For more details see http://drlwilson.com/Articles/salt.htm)
Nevertheless, sodium is an essential nutrient for the body, being necessary for fluid balance, nerve operation and other functions. Some is needed, but not too much.
So where do these opposing views leave us? I believe that there is enough evidence to show that refined table salt is a big problem for blood pressure, fluid retention, arthritis, hardened arteries and kidney problems.
But unrefined sea salt, containing a wide range of minerals, is much better. This applies particularly to unpolluted sea salts like Celtic and Himalayan Rock Salt. Regarding blood pressure in particular, I can only conclude that these might not affect it at all or may even help lower it slightly. On the other hand, large amounts of any sea salt may very likely cause blood pressure to go up. Although it is not possible to be certain, modest quantities may be fine, whether there is hypertension or not.