Friday, January 27, 2023

Risks of excessive salt intake: high blood pressure and high levels of stress hormones

If Christmas is the custom of giving in many homes, this is the time to surround a table full of bountiful food. It doesn’t matter if they are fish, meat, shellfish, nougat or shortbread. All of them in abundance and with high loadings of the one seasoning that doctors have their heartburn at: salt. Excessive consumption of this substance increases the risk of developing cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure, kidney disorders and other harmful health events. A recent study in rats suggests that a high-salt diet is also associated with higher levels of stress hormones, which are also harmful to the body in excess. The World Health Organization has waged a battle to reduce salt intake and recommends consuming no more than five grams per day per adult. Most of the population consumes twice as much.

Salt (sodium chloride) is essential to life. Essential in diet. Humans need sodium to perform vital functions, such as the transmission of nerve impulses and the normal functioning of cells. “All civilizations had inhabited areas where salt could be obtained. It is essential. If we reduced consumption to zero, we would not survive”, Jordi Salas-Salvador, Professor of Nutrition at the University of Rovira i Virgili Professor and researcher at the Obesity and Nutrition Network Biomedical Research Center (Cyberban) explains.

First of all, salt is not harmful. The problem arises when you take more than you need: “We consume more salt than we put in the salt shaker: it’s already in the food and is used as a preservative or to enhance flavor. is done for For example, the ham we eat at Christmas contains a large amount of salt; when we had booze, olives, chips and those BreakfastThere is also a lot of salt in them. It is hidden in the food. Cookies, for example, have salt, in addition to sugar”, the expert cites.

The WHO recommends adults consume no more than two grams of sodium (five grams of salt) per day, but most citizens consume an average of nine to 12 grams of salt per day. “It is estimated that 2.5 million deaths could be avoided each year if global salt consumption were reduced to recommended levels,” says the health agency, which has projected world intake of the substance to rise by 30% by 2025. plan to reduce.

In excess, salt harms health from several areas: the most studied is its relation to high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems resulting from this disease, such as myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular accidents or vascular dementia, Salas-Salvador lists the But it also causes kidney problems and a recent study adds another potential health problem to that list: It may contribute to increased levels of stress hormones.

This research was done on mice and published in the journal cardiovascular research, concluded that animals exposed to high salt intake had higher levels of glucocorticoids (cortisol in humans, corticosterone in rats), which are hormones with important cardiovascular, cognitive and metabolic functions and are produced as a response to stressful situations or threats. are issued in Scientists from the University of Edinburgh (United Kingdom) found that excessive salt intake activated the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis—a key hormonal system in the human response to stress—and increased the response to environmental stressors. “This axis is well known: hormones produced in the hypothalamus have an effect on the pituitary, a gland that in turn stimulates the adrenal glands located on the kidneys and which produce glucocorticoids. The activation of this axis is associated with metabolic diseases. has also been added. [como la diabetes o la obesidad] And it is said that this could be one of the reasons”, says Salas-Salvador.

Francisco Pita, a member of the nutrition sector of the Spanish Society of Endocrinology and Nutrition, explains that “when there is a stressful situation for the body, ie an attack in which the person needs to react or defend himself, cortisol is released.” ” The problem occurs when it is released excessively and consistently over time. “Excessive activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is bad because it produces an excess of glucocorticoids, which can lead to hypertension, fluid retention, weight gain, diabetes, hair growth and muscle weakness, poor wound healing or bruising” There are diseases caused by excessive activation of the axis, such as Cushing’s syndrome, a group of symptoms resulting from an excess of glucocorticoid action ”, explains the endocrinologist.

With all the precautions necessary for a study with animals, the association found in this research is consistent with previous articles showing an association between salt intake and urinary cortisol excretion. “We may never fully translate the studies in rats to humans. The levels of sodium that provoke stress will certainly be different, but the authors tried to simulate excess salt, and the mechanisms are probably very similar.” Although more studies are needed. In humans, we know that excess salt produces more glucocorticoids and increases their excretion”, says Rovira i Virgili prof. Pita urges caution and states that “it remains to be seen whether the eventual increase in glucocorticoid levels associated with excessive salt consumption is relevant” in clinical terms to humans.

In any case, explains Salas-Salvador, there are people who are particularly sensitive to the effects of salt, individuals who show an exaggerated hypertensive response to high salt intake. According to the study published in cardiovascular researchSalt sensitivity is also found in approximately 30% of healthy humans “and independently increases cardiovascular risk and mortality risk.”

kidney diseases

José Manuel Vázquez Rodríguez, head of the cardiology service at A Coruña Hospital and head of the cardiovascular disease area at the A Coruña Biomedical Research Institute, believes that the whole mechanism by which excessive salt intake causes high blood pressure in some people is the same. Unknown, but this outlines some of the processes: “We do know that the more salt is consumed, the more sodium there is in the body and that means more fluid retention that remains in the intravascular space. why [las personas más sensibles a la sal] They are also more sensitive to vasopressor substances in the arteries that cause them to contract and increase the pressure. Cardiologists also point out that high blood pressure “produces disease in the arteries and is a risk factor for disease in these vessels and increases the risk of heart attack or stroke.” “It also causes kidney disease because the renal arteries become damaged and can lead to kidney failure. In nephroangiosclerosis, for example, the renal arteries become damaged, they become more rigid and The artery wall becomes diseased, and this causes the kidneys to not filter well and waste products not eliminated well.

Other research has also linked high salt intake to an increased risk of developing autoimmune diseases, although scientific evidence is more limited in this area. With regard to cancer, an association has also been found between the consumption of foods high in salt and an increased risk of developing gastric tumors.

Salas-Salvador points out that the greater or lesser impact on health of excess salt is correlated with time: “It is the continued consumption that spells disaster.” To keep salt intake at a healthy level and not exceed it, WHO recommends not adding this seasoning during food preparation, removing salt shakers from the table, limiting consumption of salty snacks, and choosing low-sodium products. advises. The health agency also busts some myths, such as that salt-free foods have no taste: humans can adapt to eating with less salt as taste buds become used to the reduction in this substance.

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Nation World News Desk
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