What are the effects of sodium in the diet?

Sodium (salt) helps regulate blood pressure, electrolyte balance and nerve impulses. Deficiency is not the problem with sodium. In fact, women consume more than double -- and men more than triple -- the recommended adequate intake of sodium. More than 75 percent of this comes from processed foods and restaurant meals -- a fast-food hamburger can contain more than 1,000 milligrams of sodium, roughly the same amount found in a half teaspoon of table salt. Excessive sodium intake can cause elevated blood pressure, insomnia, pregnancy complications, kidney stones, respiratory problems and loss of bone mass.

Blood Pressure
Sodium helps maintain fluid balance in the body. It’s the main electrolyte outside the cells, and when present in excess water, it is pulled from inside the cells to dilute the outer sodium concentration -- which increases blood volume and, in turn, raises blood pressure.

Kidney Health
Too much salt in your diet could raise your risk of developing kidney stones. Harvard researchers, monitoring over 90,000 women, found that those who consumed more than three times the adequate intake of sodium daily were 30 percent more likely to suffer from kidney stones than those who consumed the adequate intake (1.5 grams per day). Why might this be? Excessive salt increases the urinary excretion of calcium -- a main component of kidney stones -- and the excess calcium may then build up as it passes through the kidneys.

Reducing salt intake by a mere 15 percent could translate into nearly 9 million fewer deaths caused by the complications brought on by high blood pressure, or hypertension. A large-scale analysis of studies from 23 countries found that cardiovascular disease caused more than three-fourths of preventable deaths and identified salt as the culprit in 81 percent of those cases.

Continue Learning about Sodium

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.