Sunday, March 18, 2007

Halt The Ban On Salt For High Blood Pressure

There are a lot of universally-held beliefs regarding health that sometimes we just automatically accept as cold hard facts without ever seriously investigating those claims under a microscope and seeing what the latest research shows. Such is the case with the notion that consuming salt is bad for your health because it will raise your blood pressure. It's just not true and I'll explain why in a moment.

This subject was brought up by one of my very regular readers in a recent e-mail:

Dear Jimmy,

My question for you is about high blood pressure. I have been recently diagnosed with it and frankly I was shocked. I went to a Curves screening to check out my cholesterol (mine was great--low triglycerides, normal blood sugars, low LDL and high HDL), but I was taken by surprise when I saw my blood pressure was elevated.

Predictably, when I went to my doctor he recommended I go on blood pressure medication, immediately start the low-fat DASH diet and include regular exercise into my routine. I do not want to takes any medications if I can help it. However, I do admit to eating more carbs than usual (I really love potatoes) but I don’t eat much, if any, sugar (especially after reading Connie Bennett's SUGAR SHOCK!).

My question is, isn’t a low-carb diet supposed to lower blood pressure? I emailed Dr. Mary Vernon about this to see if the low-carb approach is better than the low-fat DASH diet. No response as yet. I was hoping she would choose it as a question for her blog. I wondered if you have run across any research in this area.

I have chosen to return again to the Induction phase to see what affect that has on my pressure. I will report back to you how it goes! Thanks, Jimmy for great information all the time. You keep us low-carbers so motivated with your endless enthusiasm!!

Isn't it interesting how whenever someone starts having health problems such as an increase in their blood pressure, the first thing the medical community wants to do is medicate and stick the person on a low-fat diet? Um, haven't we done that over and over again and yet these problems still persist? Wouldn't somebody somewhere along the way say NOW WAIT JUST A MINUTE? If not, then let me be the first to ask that question.

Why do we just assume the low-fat diet and drugs is the great cure-all for high blood pressure? Livin' la vida low-carb HAS indeed been found in studies to actually LOWER blood pressure indeed. Just look at the JAMA study out of Stanford University from earlier this month. In it, we find the startling news (not to us low-carbers, but to the medical geniuses who keep pushing a low-fat diet) that the blood pressure readings among the people who followed the Atkins low-carb diet were SIGNIFICANTLY LOWER than all the other groups, including nearly FOUR TIMES LOWER than the poor people that were subjected to the Ornish low-fat diet.

This is quite compelling evidence that a low-fat diet is NOT the great be-all, end-all answer to dealing with high blood pressure. It's no coincidence that doctors need to simultaneously recommend prescription drugs along with that low-fat diet for people dealing with various health issues. They already know the diet is not good enough for the patient, so they get 'em hooked on an expensive medication while they are suffering on that low-fat diet. UGH!

Anyone know what I'm talking about? Yep, we've all been through it!

So, what about my reader? Although she admits to sneaking in some potatoes as part of her low-carb diet (tsk tsk!), she's doing the plan well enough to bring her lipid profile under complete control. Yet, what gives on her blood pressure issues? If livin' la vida low-carb is supposed to work to help keep blood pressure under control (and it has been proven to do just that), then what's happening with her?

Actually, she and I have something in common that is extremely rare--we are what I described in this blog post as "salt-sensitive." This only applies to about 5 percent of the population who sees a negative impact on their blood pressure when they consume even a little small amount of sodium in their diet. For that reason, I need to watch how much salt I take in.

When I weighed 410 pounds prior to 2004, not only did I have to watch how much salt I took in, but I was taking blood pressure pills to keep it at a relatively stable 150/90 reading. Before I started livin' la vida low-carb in January 2004, my doctor was contemplating putting me on TWO MORE blood pressure drugs that would have put a big dent in my budget and very likely not lower my blood pressure more than 10-15 points. Of course, he wanted me to go on a low-fat diet, too.

As you know, I declined that advice and went on the Atkins diet instead. One year later, I was down 180 pounds in weight and was able to stop taking ANY prescription medications for blood pressure. As I sit here typing this blog entry for you in 2007, my weight is not the only vital statistic that has been stablized--so has my blood pressure which has consistent readings of 120/80. WOO HOO! But I still need to watch how much salt is in EVERYTHING I eat.

To be honest, I never have enjoyed salty foods all that much. Sweets were my thing, which could explain why I ballooned up to over 400 pounds. Salt just makes my mouth curl, which is another reason I enjoy eating low-salt EVERYTHING! And when I do need something to be flavored, I actually have found an excellent salt substitute made almost entirely of potassium called Also-Salt. This is a fantastic product for people who are "salt-sensitive" who need to add some flavor to their foods.

And actually this product is extremely beneficial because it actually ADDS potassium to your diet, which is sorely lacking in the diet of most Americans these days. Potassium is a VITAL part of livin' la vida low-carb especially in the first few months of your new lifestyle change. If you supplement your diet with this essential ingredient, then you can ward off such annoying and oftentimes painful experiences such as leg cramps (man, I could tell you some stories of what I went through during my weight loss--ARGH!).

I say all of that to say this: unless you are one of the few who are "salt-sensitive," then salt is only going to cause problems for you if you are not consuming an adequate level of potassium as well. In other words, we are not an over-salted nation as has been so highly publicized, but rather a potassium-deficient one instead. How about some headlines about THAT for a change?

Nevertheless, leave it to the self-appointed experts on all things related to health over at Dr. Joel Fuhrman's "Disease Proof" blog recently when they posted a column on this very subject last month entitled "Salt Wars: The Phantom Menace" which sought to enlighten us all about just how super-evil they think salt is for everybody to eat.

In fact, they quote the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog when I wrote the following:

"Unless you are salt-sensitive (and it just so happens that I am!), there is no reason why you should watch your salt intake. An overwhelming majority have no reason to cut down on their salt intake. NONE! The fact that a minority of the population has sensitivity to salt should not make this a universal recommendation."

Nothing but the truth was conveyed in that entire paragraph I wrote. But not according to's Gerald Pugliese who wrote that column about salt. Describing my assertions regarding the minimized health risks of salt as "dangerous diet information" that "the masses eat it up," Pugliese went on to add that I'm somehow fortunate for being "salt-sensitive."

"So [Jimmy Moore] is limiting his exposure to [salt], but saying that the majority of people have no reason to avoid salt, well, that seems a little misguided because in addition to the hypertension and stomach cancer risk, Dr. Fuhrman associates salt intake with osteoporosis and heart attacks."

Pugliese continues on with his little rant about salt being some great danger to the health of all mankind quoting from Dr. Fuhrman's Eat To Live book. By the way, Gerald, why have you and Dr. Fuhrman continued to ignore my requests for well over a year to interview the fine health doctor at my blog, hmmm? Heck, even Dr. Dean Ornish agreed to an interview with me, so I don't understand why Dr. Fuhrman would be so afraid to answer a few questions from me. How about it already? I don't bite...too hard! :)

So what evidence do I have proving my assertions about salt being an irrelevant factor in raised blood pressure? Well, it just so happens there is a study published in the May 2000 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (hat tip to Regina Wilshire for pointing me to this research) which gives a well-resourced and comprehensive blow-by-blow of this salt fiasco that has been perpetrated on an unsuspecting and none-the-wiser public.

Research author David A. McCarron explains the subject of being "salt-sensitive" at great length and why it is so rare the recommendations to reduce salt intake are simply irrelevant since taking that action has not been found to bring about a reduction in cardiovascular health risk as is so commonly asserted. I highly encourage you to read the entire paper if you are seriously concerned about your blood pressure being raised because of salt consumption. Discover the TRUTH for yourself.

Hopefully, this will put to rest any concerns you may have had about salt once and for all. We need to halt the ban on salt because it absolutely does NOT lead to high blood pressure or other health issues for the vast majority of people. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to your face despite the scientific evidence to the contrary. Now who's providing the "dangerous diet information?"

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Blogger Science4u1959 said...

Well said Jimmy. We already know that the case heart-lipid theory is extremely weak and seriously flawed: well, in the case of sodium there is simply no scientific evidence WHATSOEVER that correlates to any disease. Numerous studies tried to prove the (perceived) "dangers" of salt, and they all came up zip, nada, nothing. It's the same lame old story with fat all over again: there is simply not a shred of scientific evidence against salt; only "beliefs".

To the contrary even: salt is vital to the body. Low sodium diets have been shown to be extremely harmful and even causing premature deaths. The first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES I) established baseline information during 1971-75 in a representative sample of 20,729 American adults aged twenty-five to seventy-five. Of these, 11,348 underwent medical and nutritional examination.

They were rechecked on 30 June 1992. By then there had been 3,923 deaths, of which 1,970 were due to a cardiovascular disease. Comparing salt intakes, this study found that all-cause mortality was inversely related to salt intake. In other words, those who ate the most salt had the fewest deaths – from any cause. And the same was found for cardiovascular deaths. Dr Helen Whalley writing a feature in the Lancet, talks of the continuing debate on the supposed association between salt and hypertension. She points out that an analysis of the NHANES I survey shows that ‘the heart attack fatality rate among those on low-sodium diets was 20% higher that those on normal diets.’. She goes on to report a study on the Salt Institute’s website on the impact of long-term salt reduction. It found a four-fold increase in heart attacks among those on low-salt diets.

Just an example... there is much more scientific evidence. Among the elderly, for example, high blood pressure (often diagnosed as hypertension) is completely normal and necessary.

Several researchers are extremely worried about this latest travesty, which is about as imbecilic as the lipid-heart (cholesterol) theory. A worldclass researcher wrote in The Lancet:

"We are concerned with the way in which this important is­sue is currently being handled. The idea (or likelihood) that salt in the diet has some positive value is totally ignored. The usual sci­entific stan­dards for weighing evidence and giving advice which are now well established . . . seem to have been forgotten in an evangelical crusade to present a simplistic view of the evidence which will prove attractive to the media."

Professor Swales of Leicester University also pointed out:

"Such a citation would not even get into the bibliography of hypertension. The use of such a publication to support a major recommendation is not acceptable scientific practice. . . it is fairly apparent that an enormous superstructure is being built on extremely weak foundations."

Do I smell PROFIT, guys?

3/19/2007 6:47 AM  
Blogger mrfreddy said...

those eat to starve, er, live folks quote you all the time, you know..

those guys are funny, they claim they dont censor commments, but the have completely stopped posting any comment I make... and it has nothing to do with spam filters, as Gerry tried to claim (in a series of comments on this board). I emailed them, and posted again and again. Nope, the only comments they seem to allow are those that are in complete agreement with their nonsense. Tells you something about them, I think.

3/19/2007 1:25 PM  
Blogger Tom Bunnell said...

It's almost impossible to convince people that caffeine and salt are not natural and good for our health. You want to see defenses try stepping on these two sacred cows.


3/19/2007 2:26 PM  
Blogger Kevin M. said...

The salt scare sounds like another non-issue invented by science to explain what they cannot comprehend, just as our ancestors composed mythical stories to explain natural events. I crave salt, and feel strongly that it is a very necessary and natural immune-booster. It is also important to supplement with potassium when on low-carb, as the body will otherwise leach these elements from the muscles to supply them.

This is not a sign of something unhealthy, but rather of the extreme power and effectiveness of low-carb. Now that we have discovered such a powerfully effective tool to control our overall health, it only makes sense that we may need to freshly educate ourselves on a few chemical limitations of our biology, and learn a few wise chemical ways of how to carefully manage it.

The outbreak of powerful new knowledge is not "alarming" or "concerning", except for those in every generation who dont understand it and cannot accept meaningful change. These people are doomed to remain stuck in a dsyfunctional past.

3/19/2007 4:26 PM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

Sodium Chloride (NaCl) = Salary = Salt = Killer?

All of this is merely a good illustration of the harm that ill-conceived and unsupported hypotheses can do.Those hypotheses were "invented" by bad (paid) science, by the Big Pharma. Just another "milking cow".

Salt was one of the first dietary items to be indicted by the ‘healthy eating’ faddists. We already know, of course, how nonsensical the argument against dietary fat is; in “the case against salt” there is practically no argument. Nevertheless, the current “consensus” among certain “experts” is that salt increases blood pressure and that raised blood pressure causes stroke, brain hemorrhage and heart disease.

For centuries sodium chloride (NaCl), the scientific name for salt, has been regarded as one of the most important items of diet for health. Salt was so important that people were actually paid in salt. Did you know that it is the origin of the word “salary”? Salt was also used extensively as a valuable commodity for bartering. Then, suddenly, in the 20th Century it became a killer: indicted as a cause of hypertension and, thence, of stroke and of heart disease. Thanks, Big Pharma!

3/19/2007 8:13 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

That's right on the money about the potassium, Jimmy. Blood pressure issues are actually common with a lot of young women - not because they're overweight, but because they're deficient in important nutrients (and also not getting enough cardio exercise). Improve your circulation, get plenty of potassium, drink water, get some citrus once in a while, and manage stress with downtime, stretching, meditation, prayer or whatever else works for ya! Cheers from MDA!

3/19/2007 11:30 PM  

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