Monthly Archives: June 2010

Salt and high blood pressure: Why the big hoo-ha?

Salt’s been in the news a bit lately, mostly addressing the FDA’s unusual move to request that restaurants and food companies reduce the salt content of the foods they produce (where the bulk of your salt can be found unless you have a special relationship with the shaker) .  Our palates are adjusted a bit high for the taste of salt, but stepping down consumption gradually can really help.

Why is it such a big deal, though?

The short answer: sodium consumption can increase blood pressure, and high blood pressure can increase the chances of a heart attack or stroke.  But you probably knew that.  Perhaps you would like to know why:

It all begins with osmosis, which will likely bring about images of some weird diagram with solutes and solvents and something about permeable

If this looks like a freeze frame of a video game, it’s all right.

membranes…like this!  No, wait, come back!

Perhaps you never took biology and you’ve just heard expressions like “learning by osmosis” where you learn by immersing yourself in a subject and effortlessly, you start to master the subject as it enters your semi-permeable membrane (!).  It’s not much more difficult than that if you just ignore the diagrams and remember the important thing:

Water goes where the party is.  It might have been easier if your teacher had just explained that water is a socialite.  Back to this in a minute…

Sodium and chloride (table salt) are outsiders who like to bang around in between cells wearing leather jackets while enjoying a clove ciggie, while potassium and phosphate enjoy the great indoor area of the cell.  (Salt is Heathcliff  to Potassium phosphate’s Catherine, for you literary types).

If salt is consumed in excess, Continue reading