5 Dangers of Restricting Sodium Completely

dangers of restricting sodium

The key component in the table salt is sodium. Therefore, too much sodium can rise blood pressure. The current recommendations suggest eating 2,300 mg sodium or less per day. Others also go down as low as 1500 mg sodium a day. While too much sodium can cause problems, restricting sodium can be just as bad to health. Here are 5 dangers of restricting sodium.

1. Low Sodium Levels in The Blood

Hyponatremia is a disorder characterized by low sodium levels in the blood. The symptoms are like those caused by dehydration, and lead to headaches, seizures, coma and even death in severe cases (1).

Some populations, such as older adults, face a higher risk of hyponatremia. That’s because older adults are more likely to get an illness or take medication that can lower blood sodium levels (2).

Athletes are also at a high risk of developing exercise-associated hyponatremia, particularly those who compete in endless distance exercise (3).

It’s normally induced in their case by drinking too much water and failing to replace the sodium lost by sweat (4).

Hyponatremia, or low levels of sodium in the blood, may affect some people, such as older adults and athletes. Eating less or restricting salt increases the likelihood of having this condition.

2. Increases Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance occurs when cells in the body cannot respond well to hormone insulin signals, leading to higher levels of insulin and sugar in the blood. Some studies have related low-sodium diets to an increased insulin resistance (5, 6).

One study in healthy individuals found that 7 days low-sodium diet increased insulin resistance. Yet not all studies agree, and some have discovered no effect, or even reduced insulin resistance (7, 8, 9, 10, 11).

Low-sodium diet is associated with increased risk of insulin resistance, and can cause type 2 diabetes and other severe illnesses.

3. Increases Risk of Heart Failure

Heart failure takes place where the heart cannot circulate enough blood around the body. This does not mean that your heart completely stops working, but it is still a very serious health issue.

Ironically, low-sodium diets in people with heart disease have been related to an increased risk of death. One review of controlled study showed that restricting sodium intake raised the risk of dying for people with cardiac problems (12).

The effect was powerful in people who limited their sodium intake had a 160 percent higher risk of death. This is worrisome, as they often advise heart patients to limit their sodium intake.

Sodium restriction can increase risk of dying in people with heart disease. However, we need more studies to validate this.

4. Increases Risk of Death for Diabetics

Diabetics have an increased risk of strokes and heart attacks. Thus, diabetics are recommended to restrict salt consumption. However, some studies have found a correlation between low intake of sodium and increased risk of death for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. These are observational studies. Therefore, their findings need to be viewed with caution. (13, 14, 15, 16).

Patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes on a restricting sodium diet can have an elevated risk of death.

5. Can Raise LDL and Triglycerides

Top levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides can increase the risk of heart disease. Some studies have found that diets low in sodium can increase levels of both LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

In one research report, low-sodium diets led to an increase of 4.6 percent in LDL cholesterol and an increase of 5.9 percent in triglycerides. A more recent study recorded a rise in cholesterol of 2.5 percent and triglycerides of 7 percent (17, 18).

However, these studies also showed that salt restriction caused only a slight decline in blood pressure.

Studies have shown that reducing salt can increase LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, serious risk factors for heart disease.

How Much Sodium to Eat?

Salt is 40 percent sodium. The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) recommends an intake of less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, equivalent to 5.8 grams of salt. Studies reveal a J-shaped curve when it comes to the sodium effects. An intake of 3000–5000 milligrams sodium per day is acceptable, which is close to that already consumed by the average person (19, 20).

The Bottom Line

Excessive consumption of sodium can be dangerous, but restricting sodium can be dangerous too. Whether you have a medical condition requiring a low-sodium diet, or if your doctor has told you to limit your consumption, carry on doing so by all means. Adding some salt to your favorite foods is both safe and nutritious, and can make your diet much more enjoyable.

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Naeem Durrani BSc
Naeem Durrani is a freelance journalist who specializes in health and wellness innovation. His interests include medical research, nutrition, and the scientific evidence around effective wellness practices that empower people to positively transform their lives.
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