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Of: Svenja Wallocha

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Salt is important for the body, but many people consume too much of it. In the long run, this can be bad for your health.

Frankfurt – For many, food tastes bland without salt. It should therefore not be missing in any kitchen. The spice has been used for thousands of years. For a long time it was an expensive commodity, but today it is a cheap everyday product that can be found in all supermarkets. Salt is also extremely important for the body, but many people consume too much of it. This can do long term damage.

“Table salt is the main source of sodium and chloride in the diet,” says the website of the German Nutrition Society (DGE). Both electrolytes are essential for important bodily functions such as regulating blood pressure and maintaining cellular fluid balance. Sodium also plays an important role for nerves and muscles. But how much salt is healthy?

Too much salt dangerous for health? Experts recommend this daily amount

According to the DGE, you should not add more than 6 grams of salt per day, which corresponds to approximately one teaspoon. The World Health Organization (WHO) even recommends just 5 grams per day for adults. Children, on the other hand, should eat much less salt, and young children are even recommended to cook without salt.

But most adults consume far more salt than is good for them. Whether by too much seasoning or by processed foods such as ready meals and snacks, which are often particularly salty. “Relevant health and food safety authorities agree that for most Europeans daily consumption (around 8-11g) is well above the recommended level,” the WHO website says. .

Salt per day (maximum)
Do not add salt to food
2 grams
3 grams
5 grams
6 grams
6 grams
Source: UK NHS Recommendation National Health Service/DGE

A “large-scale German Adult Health Study” (DEGS) also showed that men, in particular, eat far too much salt. On average, they consume just over 10 grams of salt per day, compared to 8.4 grams per day for women. “In 50% of men and 38.5% of women, salt consumption is even greater than 10 grams per day”, specifies the DGE website. Too much salt can have serious consequences.

Too much salt can harm long-term health: organ damage and disease

Eating too much salt for a long time can seriously damage your health. The spice can lead to high blood pressure, which in turn damages important organs such as the heart, coronary arteries, brain, kidneys and blood vessels over time, the consumer advice center explains. This can lead to fatal diseases such as heart attack or stroke. Salt is also considered a likely risk factor for the development of stomach cancer, according to the seat. But not everyone reacts to salt in the same way. Some need more, others can only tolerate a little. Much has already been studied and reported on the subject of salt.

Salt apparently makes you hungry rather than thirsty, as researchers have found in two studies. The team from the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Charité, Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC), University Hospital Erlangen-Nuremberg and Vanderbilt University discovered during simulated missions to Mars that salt only has a short-term effect on increased thirst. “The subjects even drank less overall when they consumed more salt. The salt triggered a water-saving mechanism in the kidneys,” the medical journal reports on the findings. More salt in food led to more urine, but the greater amount of fluid did not come from drinks. Instead, the salt remained in the urine while the water was transported to the kidneys and the body.

Blood pressure is measured during a regular check-up in the doctor's office
Blood pressure is measured during a regular check-up in the doctor’s office © IMAGO / Eibner

Experiments on mice then revealed that urea could be involved in the process of returning water to the body. But the process cost a lot of energy. The mice were hungrier, but stopped drinking. The study subjects also complained of being hungrier when they ate very salty foods.

Overweight and sick more often due to excess salt? Studies with surprising results

Salt is also a flavor enhancer. It stimulates the appetite. Salty foods can therefore promote the development of obesity. Especially ready meals and snacks such as crisps are enriched with a lot of salt, fat, flavorings and colorings, sugar and spices. The so-called food formula that you can barely stop eating. Fast food chains and other restaurants also depend on it. According to the WHO, they are also largely responsible for high levels of salt, fat and sugar in the diet.

  • Particularly salty foods:
  • Ham, salami and meat sausage
  • Cheese
  • Pretzel sticks. fries and crackers
  • bread and buns
  • ready meals

Too much salt in food can also harm the immune system. This is suggested by the results of a study from the University Hospital of Bonn. “In mice that received a high-salt diet, bacterial infections were significantly more severe. Human subjects who consumed an additional six grams of salt per day also had significant immune deficiencies,” the university report states. , those who eat too much salt may get sick more often.With some skin diseases, however, the extra intake of sodium chloride has worked well.According to experts, the skin functions as a kind of salt reserve.

Too much salt: here are the signs to watch out for

These physical signs may indicate that you are consuming too much salt:

  • More thirst in the short term, more hunger in the long term
  • Overweight, increased risk of obesity
  • Food tastes bland, more and more salt is used
  • High blood pressure
  • Get sick more often – Study suggests too much salt can impair immune function

Excessive salt consumption can be harmful to your health: here’s how you reduce it on a daily basis

Due to the many negative health effects, it is therefore recommended to eat less salt. However, it is not that simple. Because it is considered proven that salt addictive. You quickly get used to the high-salt diet, but then unconsciously add more and more spices. However, you can train yourself not to eat too much salt, the DGE recommends eating fewer processed foods and more vegetables and fruits.

“Also, cooking should be seasoned with spices and herbs instead of table salt,” the company says. Salt consumption should then be gradually reduced. If table salt is used, it should also be fortified with iodine and fluoride. Politician Karl Lauterbach, meanwhile, swears by a totally low-salt diet. He has been cooking without spices for many years. “If you don’t consume extra salt, the salt receptors on the tongue or in the palate adjust in such a way that small amounts taste like much larger amounts,” the politician told Deutschlandfunknova. (sww)

The information given in this article does not replace a visit to a doctor. Only experts can make the correct diagnosis and initiate appropriate treatment. Taking medication or food supplements should be discussed with a doctor beforehand.

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