Not to be taken with a pinch of salt...
Written by Glen Matten
BA Hons DipION MBANT, Nutritional Therapist
Glen graduated from the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in 2001 and runs nutrition clinics in Norwich and London.
With his fresh approach to nutrition, Glen has made numerous forays into television and radio as well as putting pen to paper for a number of magazines and newspapers. Glen’s first book The 100 Foods You Should Be Eating was published earlier this year.
Most of the time, I can’t help but think that if we just took a bit more notice of what us humans evolved eating over millennia, we’d be a whole lot better off
fter all, our genetic make-up was shaped over millions of years of evolution and goes a long way to determining our
nutritional needs, not to mention our needs for physical activity. No more blatantly apparent is the mismatch between our modern diets and what our ancient ancestors would have eaten than when it comes to salt.
As a nation, we’re pretty hooked on the stuff. And this ‘salt appetite’ is no fluke. A well developed ‘salt appetite’ would have been vital for our survival in a natural environment where salt was very scarce. Most natural, unprocessed foods contain very little after all. Yet take this survival mechanism and place it smack bang in the middle of the 21st century and we’ve got a bit of a problem – typical Western diets are full of the stuff. Intakes of 9-12g of salt per day are not unusual and out of all proportion with what we evolved eating.
And just in case you’re thinking that you don’t add salt at the table, nor do you add much to your cooking, take heed – a majority of the salt we consume (75%) is already added to the foods we buy. And you don’t have to take my word for it, just take a look at the food labels next time you’re out shopping.
The most well documented effect of excess dietary salt is increased blood pressure and risk of hypertension (high blood pressure). And this is not something that should be
readily dismissed. It’s thought that high blood pressure is responsible for 62% of stroke and 49% of coronary heart disease. Whilst this is undoubtedly the major public health issue that underpins the efforts to drive down the nation’s salt intake, the story doesn’t end there.
Excessive dietary intake of salt is also linked with a plethora of other health problems, including kidney disease and kidney stones, risk of stomach cancer, and also osteoporosis (eating too much salt causes calcium to be excreted from the body). Links have also been made between salt and aggravation of asthma symptoms, whilst some researchers are even suggesting a link between excess salt intake and childhood obesity. The hypothesis for the latter is the association between salt intake and increased consumption of soft drinks (high in calories) due to increased thirst.
espite all of our 21st century technological sophistication, when it comes to our nutritional requirements,
in many ways we’re pretty much stuck in the ancient past. Our diets may have changed beyond recognition, but us humans haven’t done terribly well at keeping up with the pace of change. When it comes to the issue of salt, the food industry have begun to respond to this problem by gradually reducing the salt content of processed foods. And for the sake of our health, let’s hope they continue to do so.
Glen teaches and lectures at a number of colleges and is currently studying for an MSc in Nutritional Medicine at the University of Surrey.
Throughout 2010, Glen will be continuing to run seminars and courses in Norwich for the general public, including the Delicious Nutritious Cookery Course on Saturday 19th June. For information about individual consultations, courses or consultancy, Glen can be contacted on 01603 890439 or by email at glen@ realnutrition.co.uk
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