Salt in BONE OUT?

March 13, 2013 4 min read

Salt in BONE OUT?

Table salt (refined) and sea salt is primarily a combination of sodium and chloride (NaCl). Sodium is an essential element, which means we can’t live without it. Our bodies need sodium and it makes the taste of food, oh-so-good.

But too much of a good thing can result in bone loss.

Most people are aware of the connection between high blood pressure and sodium intake, but few are aware that too much sodium can result in bone loss. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) estimates that the average American adult consumes nearly double the recommended daily intake of sodium per day.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends an upper limit of 2,300 mg. each day or 1,500 mg. if you're age 51 or older, or if you are black, or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. I would add to this, those who are concerned about their bones should also strive for no more than 1,500 mg. each day.

The exception to this is for those who sweat for extended periods of time, through exercise or work.

How does high salt intake impact bone?

Following is an excerpt from Science News.

“Todd Alexander and his team recently discovered an important link between sodium and calcium. These both appear to be regulated by the same molecule in the body. When sodium intake becomes too high, the body gets rid of sodium via the urine, taking calcium with it, which depletes calcium stores in the body. High levels of calcium in the urine lead to the development of kidney stones, while inadequate levels of calcium in the body lead to thin bones and osteoporosis.

"When the body tries to get rid of sodium via the urine, our findings suggest the body also gets rid of calcium at the same time," says Alexander, a Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry researcher whose findings were recently published in the peer-reviewed journal American Journal of Physiology -- Renal Physiology.”

In essence the higher your sodium intake, the larger your calcium losses are. Maintaining your sodium intake well below the recommended 2,300 mg. each day while meeting your daily requirement for calcium should cover calcium losses through your urine and maintain your bone health.

Recommended daily intake of calcium is 1,000 mg. per day, with an upper daily intake of 1,300 mg. per day. Some people need more depending on their absorption of calcium.

Sodium – how important is it and what does it do?

  • It is found in every cell of the body
  • Helps to maintain the right balance of fluids in your body
  • Used to transmit nerve impulses
  • Influences the contraction and relaxation of muscles
  • Too much or too little salt intake can result in electrolyte disturbance, muscle cramps or dizziness, which can cause neurological problems, or death.
  • Drinking too much water, with insufficient salt intake, can result in water intoxication (hyponatremia).

Salt Sense - here are some salt facts so that you can be salt savvy:

  • Sodium is an essential nutrient
  • Recommended daily intake
    • 2,300 mg.
    • 1,500 for people over 50 or for those with elevated blood pressure or congestive heart failure. While no studies exist on how much salt intake is OK for bone health, my opinion is that 1,500 mg. is a good target.
    • One teaspoon of salt = 2,335 mg. of salt – yikes! Hold that salt please!
    • One tablespoon soy sauce = 1,000 mg. salt – Oy, the soy!
    • Whole foods naturally contain salt – all vegetables, meat, dairy and shellfish with crabmeat toping the scale at over 900 mg. of salt per 3 oz. Yes, most of us can handle occasional high dose foods.
    • READ LABELS: Processed foods often contain huge amounts of salt – note the serving size!
    • Foods can taste sweet yet still contain a significant amount of salt
    • Salt bombs
      • Processed and prepared foods tend to contain a lot of salt.
      • Frozen foods – pizza 1,800 mg.
      • Spaghetti sauce – one cup 1,000 mg.
      • Packaged grains – one flour tortilla can have as much as 500 mg. of sodium
      • Cheese – tends to be high in sodium and cottage cheese can be as high as 800 mg.
      • Meats especially smoked – bacon can contain as much as 350 mg./slice (Canadian Bacon)
      • Canned foods can contain as much as 1,300 mg. of salt
      • Canned fish
        • Tuna 300 mg. per can
        • Sardines (a good choice for bone health) can have as much as 300 mg. per 3 ounces. Read the label – some have less than 50 mg.
        • Restaurant foods can contain a lot of salt. If you are concerned ask your server if they have low sodium options.

Table salt versus sea salt

Table salt is sodium chloride with additives for anti-caking and other ingredients that are often added, such as iodine. Sea salt does not contain iodine or other additives, but it does contain additional trace elements such as calcium and magnesium. Interestingly, sea salt is more alkaline than table salt because of the natural trace elements. However, sodium is sodium and regardless of origin maintaining a healthy level is important for your health. My favorite brand of salt is Real Salt, which is produced in the USA. It is mined in Utah – no additives and no chemicals.

You can lower your salt intake. If you are used to a salty taste it will take some time before your taste buds lower their expectations, but it is worth the effort for your bones and for your overall health.


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