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Diet, Hypertension and Salt Toxicity

Salt is perhaps the oldest and most commonly used food additive. It improves the taste of many foods without adding calories. In larger amounts it also inhibits the growth of many microorganisms and has been used to preserve food throughout much of man’s recorded history. So important was salt for preserving foods that it was often part of the pay Roman soldiers received, hence the word “salary.” Today, refrigeration, modern canning and other food processing techniques have made this once essential preservative role of salt largely superfluous.

However, most people who have become accustomed to the taste of salt come to prefer salted over unsalted food. This is why the consumption of salt has remained rather high in modern societies despite the fact that it is no longer needed to prevent food spoilage. The average American consumes about 3,000 to 5,000 mg (130-217 mmol) of sodium per day or about 7.5 to 12.5 grams of salt daily. Ten grams of salt is about 2 teaspoons sodium chloride. Salt is 40% sodium and 60% chloride by weight.

In modern Westernized societies only about 10% of dietary salt comes naturally from the foods consumed. Another 15-25% comes from the saltshaker and about 75% of the salt in the typical Western diet comes from processed foods and meals consumed away from the home.

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Diet, Hypertension and Salt Toxicity