Salt is essential for the body. Many bodily functions and metabolic processes can only be accomplished with the help of the small crystals. This includes regulating blood pressure and maintaining fluid balance. What everyone should know about salt.
Table salt consists of the minerals sodium and chloride - and has no calories. Among other things, sodium regulates the water balance, affects blood pressure and ensures the signal transmission of nerve and muscle cells. Thus, the mineral is also of great importance for the heart rhythm. Among other things, chloride is an important component of the digestive juices and is involved in the formation of gastric acid.
Sodium deficiency is particularly common in the elderly
Older people around the age of 70 often suffer from sodium deficiency. Their bodies react sensitively to fluctuations in the salt balance. In addition, they are often not very thirsty and many of them are less hungry - it is possible that too little of the mineral is being absorbed.
The consequences can be:
- unsteady gait
- memory disorders
But not only too little salt can be critical. Too much also puts a strain on the body. The fact is, salt can raise blood pressure levels. While people who have low blood pressure can benefit from this effect, it can be critical for people with a tendency to have high blood pressure. Over the years, high blood pressure can damage important organs such as the heart, coronary arteries, brain, kidneys and blood vessels. Consequences include life-threatening illnesses such as heart attack or stroke . From a value of 140/90 mm Hg (millimetres of mercury column) the doctor speaks of high blood pressure (hypertension).The extent to which salt affects blood pressure is different for everyone. Salt in food increases blood pressure in some people, and they are known as salt sensitive. According to studies, up to 50 percent of hypertensive patients are sensitive to table salt. In other people, on the other hand, there is no significant effect of the mineral on blood pressure values.
Too much salt increases the risk of stomach cancer
Excessive salt consumption is also discussed in connection with stomach cancer. According to the Cancer Information Service (KID) of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), heavily salted or cured foods seem to increase the risk of stomach cancer - regardless of whether it is salted or cured meat, fish or heavily salted vegetables. The explanation: table salt probably damages the gastric mucosa and thus contributes to inflammatory processes in the stomach.
How much salt does the body need?
Experts disagree on the amount of salt that is harmless. In order to be able to maintain the important bodily functions, a daily minimum salt intake of 1.4 grams applies. According to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment ( BfR ), the body of an adult needs up to a maximum of six grams of table salt daily to cover the requirement. According to the German Society for Nutrition (DGE), it shouldn’t be more than six grams – that’s about a teaspoon of salt.
The World Health Organization ( WHO ) even specifies a daily maximum value of only five grams - according to the WHO, we consume around nine to twelve grams of salt every day in western countries. That equates to about one and a half to two teaspoons. Men consume more than women.