Have you ever wondered why Sodium, a common element, is included on every list of dietary information? As it turns out, it is actually an essential nutrient that performs a number of vital functions.
Most nutritionists strongly suggest against exceeding the recommended daily amount of sodium, however, as overconsumption of it can lead to chemical imbalances in the body and high levels of water retention. Below, we will examine what sodium does, how much is too much, and what companies are doing to help battle its overuse.
Sodium Function In The Human Body
Sodium, which is largely decried because of what it can generate in large amounts, actually has more than a few very important roles. It regulates blood pressure and blood volume, transmits nerve impulses, facilitates the contraction and relaxation of muscles, and maintains the proper balance of fluids in the body. Additionally, sodium regulates the acid-base balance through osmotic equilibrium.
Sodium atoms are absolutely crucial in brain and nerve function.
Consumption and Overconsumption
Most humans derive their sodium from table salt, or sodium chloride. This salt can be used for everything from seasoning to pickling. It inhibits bacterial and fungal growth, thus acting as an excellent preservative. Because of the wide range of preservatives used and the amount of salt used to enhance taste, most humans ingest far more sodium than they actually require.
In order to survive, a human technically needs to consume only five hundred milligrams of sodium per day. Realistically, however, this number is closer to fifteen hundred in order to properly replace sodium lost through sweat and other normal bodily functions. This amounts to roughly just under a teaspoon.
In the average diet, a person will consume about ten times this amount. While sodium under consumption can lead to a wide variety of problems or even death, sodium overconsumption generates its own list of issues. Individuals with “salt sensitivity” such as African Americans, the elderly, and those who have diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and kidney problems, should consume no more than the required amount.
Foods high in preservatives and frozen foods are generally high in sodium, as is fast food and even foods that may not taste salty (such as cheese). Sodium overconsumption is linked to a variety of health problems including high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Excessive sodium consumption is one of the leading causes of hypertension.
The Future of Sodium
Luckily, it seems some scientists and private companies have recognized the problem of sodium overconsumption and may have discovered a solution. Just recently, a new salt molecule was created that had significantly less sodium in it than table salt, yet still had the same taste impact.
This was done by increasing the surface area of the molecule, resulting in less actual mass with the same effect on the taste buds. Frito-Lay already has plans to include this new molecule in their products of potato chips and soft drinks. The new salt is all-natural and has the same exact net health effects of table salt, as opposed to sugar substitutes which may actually lead to health problems.