A Brief History of Salt:
Salt is sodium plus chloride. The ocean has large supplies of salt as does certain lakes like the Great Salt Lake and the Dead Sea of Israel. The salt is concentrated through the evaporation of water and creation of "salten seas". Since salt creates buoyancy, it aids in floating and swimming. Thus salten seas becomes spas for some people.
Historically salt has been extremely important in the preservation of food. Salting meat and other animal products has been particularly important in preventing spoilage.
Salt mines at one time were more valuable than gold mines, because salt created the opportunity to process foods and allow for travel across continents and voyages over seas. Fishes and some vegetables were stored in "brine". Thus salt was of great importance to mankind, and allowed for exploration of our planet. During this period, the salty taste of preserved food became the "norm".
Salt is crucial to life itself and fundamental to good health. (See Part I - April 2004 Issue). But too much salt is present in most foods in the American diet. In both the Western and Oriental diets, salt can be devastating to good health. Salt promotes hypertension, stroke, fluid formation, and heart failure. Thus salt control is extremely important in the presence of cardiovascular and other diseases. Some diseases of the liver and kidneys also cause edema formation. Here again salt restriction and the judicious use of diuretic drugs is important in managing the internal environment of the body to maintain the balance known as "homeostasis".
The next installment will deal with dietary sources of salt and how to control your salt intake.
I'll be in touch next month.
Thomas Petty, MD
Professor of Medicine,
University of Colorado Health Sciences Center
Snowdrift Pulmonary Conference