It's the dose that makes the poison

‘Salt slip up’ (Chemistry World, April 2012, p20) and Philip Ball’s interesting piece (Chemistry World, October 2011, p37) both allude to the dangers of salt consumption – though coming from differing angles. Being a saltaholic myself, I think it high time someone shook a little something out that was positive about salt intake, and so point to a paper written by Suemarsu et al (Circ. Res., 2010, 106, 593), which indicates that reduced sodium intake or reduced urine output inversely correlates with cardiac mortality in patients. The authors cite a series of clinical studies over the past 20 years that call into question the wisdom of following a low salt diet as ‘lacking a strong mechanistic scientific basis such as reduced NO bioavailability in the heart … patients on a [low salt] diet have an increase in coronary events compared to those on normal salt intake…,’ and go on to say: ‘The controversy around the potential detrimental effects of a low salt diet has been discussed by Aviv, proposing the hypothesis that there is a U-shaped function curve governing salt intake. Furthermore, the effect responsible for mortality at both high and low salt intake is proposed to be NO-superoxide.’

While this information may not be cause to follow Jimmy Buffett’s alluring if plaintive cry of ‘Wasting away again in Margaritaville, searching for my last shaker of salt,’ and while salt may not technically be a spice, a little shake now and then may add a bit more to one’s life – spice, that is.

R DiSalvo CChem FRSC

California, US