Eating a diet high in sodium isn’t good for your heart or blood vessels, but now there’s a new reason to limit the amount of salt in your diet, especially if you’re a female. A study recently published in the Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology shows that a diet high in sodium lowers calcium levels and may increase the risk for osteoporosis.
Sodium, Calcium, and Osteoporosis
Most people think of a high sodium diet as being unhealthy for your heart and a low calcium diet as being bad for bone health – but the two may be related. Researchers at the University of Alberta recently found that sodium and calcium have a very “chummy” relationship with each other. Their findings show that a protein called sodium-hydrogen exchanger 3, or NHE3, which eliminates sodium from the body also ferries calcium out of the body. So when you eat a meal high in sodium and your body excretes it into your urine, it takes calcium with it. This is concerning, especially for women, since most women don’t get enough calcium in their diet to keep their bones healthy and reduce their risk of osteoporosis.
This finding fits together the pieces of a puzzle. Researchers have long wondered why high sodium diets seem to increase the risk of osteoporosis and kidney stones, and this study seems to explain it. When your body excretes sodium into the urine, calcium goes along with it. When calcium ends up in the urine, it increases the risk of kidney stones. Plus, it increases the risk for osteoporosis by depleting your body’s calcium stores.
What Does This Mean?
According to research published in the American Heart Association Journal, eating a high sodium diet over a period of year’s damages the inner lining of blood vessels. This increases the risk of developing high blood pressure. Now it appears it also increases the risk for osteoporosis and kidney stones because of its effect on calcium.
The average person doesn’t get most of their sodium from shaking a salt shaker – they get it from processed foods. One of the best ways to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet is to cut back or eliminate packaged and processed foods from your diet. If you do buy packaged foods, check out the sodium content by reading the label before buying it. Avoid eating fast food and restaurant food as much as possible since what they serve is typically loaded with salt. The American Heart Association recommends getting less than 1,500 milligrams a day, and it’s not uncommon for a restaurant meal to exceed this amount. If you eat a higher sodium diet, it’s even more important that you get enough dietary calcium to compensate. Dairy foods are naturally good calcium sources and are more easily absorbed than most plant-based sources. Good non-dairy sources of calcium include tofu made with calcium sulfate, almonds, Brazil nuts and green, leafy vegetables.
The Bottom Line?
Now there’ another good reason to cut back on the amount of sodium in your diet. High sodium diets aren’t good for bone health and may increase the risk of kidney stones too. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables that are rich in potassium. Potassium-rich veggies are heart-healthy and will help control your blood pressure. Lastly, make sure you’re getting enough calcium in your diet, especially if you’re eating processed foods.
FoodNavigator.com “Too Much Salt Could Mean Too Little Calcium, Say, Researchers”
American Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology. Volume 302, Number 8, pages F943-F956, doi: 10.
American Heart Association. “Too much salt may damage blood vessels and lead to high blood pressure”