Salt is a commonly occurring mineral and The body needs a certain amount of it to function properly. Bread is a major source of salt in the diet; High levels can be dangerous both for children and adults.
Why do we need salt?
Salt is a commonly occurring mineral, the technical name of which is sodium chloride. It is the sodium part of salt that is important. The body needs a certain amount of sodium to function properly.
Sodium helps to maintain the concentration of body fluids at correct levels. It also plays a central role in the transmission of electrical impulses in the nerves, and helps cells to take up nutrients.
Why is too much salt bad?
In adults, when levels of sodium are too high, the body retains too much water and the volume of bodily fluids increases.
Many scientists believe this process is linked to high blood pressure, or hypertension, which in turn is linked to a greater risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
With high levels of fluid circulating through the brain there is a greater chance that weaknesses in the brain's blood vessels are exposed and that they may burst, causing a stroke.
Similarly, a greater volume of fluid passing through the heart can place additional strain on the organ, increasing the possibility of coronary disease.
However, there are many potential causes of hypertension and coronary heart disease, and some scientists deny that salt plays any significant role at all.
An adult will be able to remove salt from the body through the kidneys into the urine.
However, very young babies do not have the capacity to process large quantities of salt as the kidneys are not yet developed.
If they are given adult food with a higher salt content before they are at least four months old, excess sodium can accumulate in the body, causing kidney, liver and brain damage, and in very occasional cases, death.
It is recommended that babies are given only milk, whether breast or formula, for the first four months of life.
Baby foods are supposed to contain lower levels of salt, and it is recommended that if adult foods are to be given, unprocessed foods should be used, and no salt added.
How much salt should we eat?
The adults should eat six grammas of salt a day.
The main sources of salt in the diet are processed foods and salt added during cooking or at the table. Meat and meat products, and bread can also be high in salt.
Salt is added to processed foods to aid preservation and to improve taste. Sodium is present in additives such as monosodium glutamate and sodium bicarbonate.
Small amounts of sodium can be found naturally in some foods such as eggs and fish.
What should we do?
Salt has been linked to increased blood pressure.
Everybody should look to reduce the amount of salt in their diet. It would have a significant effect on those people who need to reduce their salt levels because they are susceptible to hypertension, but it would also do no harm for the whole population to reduce its salt intake.
Ways to reduce salt intake:
Reading food labels can be confusing as they often give the sodium, rather than the salt content of food. To calculate the amount of salt in a product, multiply the sodium content by two-and-a-half times.
This page contains basic information. If you are concerned about your health, you should consult a doctor.