Q. I happened across a study showing that low-sodium diets don’t offer benefits to people who aren’t otherwise at risk for heart disease. I realized that I’ve been religiously following a low sodium diet for years, since it was advised for the general population. I’ve completely lost my taste for salt and avoid it whenever possible, but I am not at risk for heart disease.
I wondered what would happen if I changed. So just for the heck of it, I began adding some sea salt to my food. (Sea salt tastes really good.)
After a while I noticed something odd. Whereas I had suffered screamingly painful leg cramps at night for years (as long as I had been avoiding salt), they disappeared. Coincidence? I think not.
A. Sodium has long been vilified by public health officials. An eight-year European study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (May 4, 2011) showed, however, that people consuming the least sodium in their diets had the highest mortality.
Another study found that low intake of sodium was linked to an increase in stress hormones (adrenaline, renin and aldosterone), which might have a negative impact on cardiovascular health (American Journal of Hypertension, Jan. 2012).
Those who are salt sensitive or who have heart disease may indeed benefit from a low-salt diet. Someone like you, though, may discover that too little sodium can sometimes have negative consequences. Many readers report that pickle juice or yellow mustard, both high in sodium, can help relieve muscle cramps.