The sodium dilemma – and a possible solution

 

David Thomas is a chiropractor with a serious interest in nutrition. In the 1990s, using the government's own figures, he compared the nutritional content of common British foods in 1940 with that of a similar foods in 1991. He was so shocked by what he discovered (see Mineral Deficiencies and their fallout) that he started to search for a way to replace the minerals with which our food was no longer providing us. His search took him to the Great Salt Lakes of Utah. Now, ten years later, his concern is with salt consumption...

As a nation we have a problem with taking in too much sodium in the form of sodium chloride – salt.

However, sodium is an essential mineral found mainly in extracellular fluids, vascular fluids within the blood vessels, arteries, veins, and capillaries; and intestinal fluids surrounding the cells. Sodium is absorbed in the small intestine where it is carried via the bloodstream to the kidney. The kidneys then filter out the necessary sodium the body needs to maintain blood sodium levels and then releases this amount into the bloodstream. The excess is then excreted in the urine.

Sodium is essential for maintaining blood pH and proper water balance. Together with potassium, sodium helps regulate the distribution of fluids on either side of the cell walls. Sodium and potassium are also intricately involved in muscle contraction and expansion as well as nerve stimulation. Sodium also keeps the other blood minerals soluble so that a build up of other minerals will not accumulate in the blood stream. Sodium also acts with chlorine to improve blood and lymph health and aids in eliminating carbon dioxide from the body.

Poorly represented in natural food sources

Yet sodium it is very poorly represented in our natural food sources. Consequently we have developed a very specific salt ‘button’ on our tongue that seeks out that salty taste and makes us very ‘moorish’ when we find such a food source. Also the body (via the kidneys) is designed to ‘hold onto’ sodium and get rid of potassium as potassium is plentiful in fruits and vegetables. This is the way it’s been for millennia. Then along came food processing and manufacturing industries who recognised that a salty taste hit the right spots, it is also functional (allowed yeast to rise), it acted as a preservative AND it was cheap! Just too much of a temptation to incorporate in the vast majority of all processed and manufactured foods and drinks.

The fallout from excess consumption

So 100 years down the road various government bodies – from the World Health Organisation to the UK’s Foods Standards Agency – have at long last taken on board the original research work by Dr. W. L. T. Addison in 1928 who initially demonstrated the connection between excessive sodium intake and hypertension (1) – and these bodies decreed that sodium content MUST be reduced from an average of 11 grams per day in 2004 to 6 grams by 2012.

This has created a panic in the Food and Drinks industries as they are between a brick and a hard place. They have consciously exploited the ‘salt button’ to the point that the vast majority of the population now crave the salty tastes of their foods …………yet now they have to reduce the salt content either under their own auspices or there will be legislation to drive these targets forward. They don’t know how to do it because to reduce the salt content overnight to the level stipulated would alienate the public from buying their then tasteless products.

To resolve the dilemma all the major food producers have gone some way to attaining these goals by gradually reducing the salt content of their products (Heinz have reduced the salt content in their beans by 30%). The trouble is they have now reached the point where there is a consumer backlash and we have the scenario where the packet probably tastes better than the product!

Reduce, reduce...

To overcome this the major manufacturing companies – Heinz, Nestle, Unilever, M&S - are taking us(?!?) on their respective salt reduction ‘journeys’. Which basically means that if you eat only their particular range of products then ‘overall’ your salt intake will be reduced - BUT individual products (iconic ones!) may still well contain significant amount of salt. Also ‘we’ must - as an integral element of these ‘journeys’- become part of the journey and consciously desist from adding extra salt to our foods!

That’s the background and to cope with this situation they – and suppliers of food ingredients - have created a number of salt substitutes which fall into 2 main categories. The first is another mineral salt – for instance potassium chloride or calcium chloride or magnesium sulphate. However, the use of these can only be increased to a certain degree after which they create a bitter metallic aftertaste. The other main category are yeast extracts which are often expensive, have dubious origins and normally do not have any functional or preservative qualities. Oh dear the poor F&D industry – and these horrible government agencies will not listen to their plight!

Enter Fortiflavor...

So what's the solution? Well interesting enough there is one which could - given that processed foods are here to stay for some time yet - have great health benefits. Mineral Resources International Inc.are a company based in Utah USA who have been producing food supplements for over 40 years. Their supplements are based on the health giving qualities of readily assimilated ionic minerals, trace elements and ultra trace elements that they have ‘harvested’ from the Great Salt Lake.

The proprietary product they have developed specifically for the food industry is called FortiFlavor and is essentially a concentrated source of all the minerals present in Sea water – without the sodium. So by adding FortiFlavor back into a mix of sodium chloride and (if desired) potassium chloride you can recreate the taste of sea water – which is actually better than commodity salt.

This is a very elegant solution to the problem because it is possible to reduce the NaCl content of a product by up to 60% by ‘juggling’ the NaCl:FortiFlavor:(if required)K ratio as necessary for the taste profile, preservation requirement and functional needs of the product concerned. Consequently by incorporating annually increasing amounts of FortiFlavor food manufacturers could continue to reduce the sodium content of their products to the desired requirement without compromising the taste.

Also the health benefits are huge because (actually) the salt issue problem is not so much to do with sodium excess but rather sodium balance at a cellular level and by using FortiFlavor you could ensure a more balanced Na:K:Mg:Cl balance as well as incorporating other essential trace elements and ultra trace elements that are often lacking or even absent from our modern diets – refer to my Mineral Depletion of our Foods. (2) Think of the positive impact that could have on the current statistics related to Cardio Vascular Disease, Stroke, Hypertension, Hypoglycaemia, Diabetes, Obesity etc and therefore to the overall health of our nation!

References
(1) Addison, W. L. (1928). "The use of sodium chloride, potassium chloride, sodium bromide, and potassium bromide in cases of arterial hypertension which are amenable to potassium chloride." The Canadian Medical Association Journal XVIII: 281-285.
(2) Thomas D E, (2007), A study of the mineral depletion of foods available to us as a nation over the period 1940 to 2002 – A review of the 6th Edition of McCance and Widdowson, Nutrition and Health, 19, pp.21-55

 

First published in April 2010

Click here for more articles

Click here for LINKS to manufacturers of nutrition and food supplements.