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Salt in health and disease — a delicate balance

posted Apr 1, 2013, 7:11 AM by James Cai   [ updated May 23, 2014, 6:33 AM ]
This review article is published in N Engl J Med. "The fact that salt (sodium chloride) is essential for life has been recognized for millennia. Historically, the exchange value of salt played an important role in establishing trade routes, securing alliances, and provoking revolutions. Homer referred to salt as a divine substance, and Plato described it as especially dear to the gods. Salt has been associated with sexual potency, fertility, and immortality. In sodium-deficient states, salt consumption is driven by salt appetite — an innate and motivated behavioral response that drives a human or animal to seek and ingest salt-containing foods and fluids. However, under usual circumstances, the ambient salt diet is in excess of physiological need, and in humans, it has been difficult to distinguish innate salt appetite and salt need from salt preference. The hunger for salt is also influenced by taste, culture, social custom, the widespread availability of salt, and habit independent of the need for salt. Despite its historical value and physiological importance, high salt consumption has been recognized as detrimental to health. In this article, we provide an overview of the current understanding of the relation of salt consumption to hypertension and cardiovascular disease." [Read on...]