First published on on June 17, 2013

I’m going to dodge the “American” part and go global. I’m doing that because researchers have very carefully documented what the absolute worst disease in the entire world is.

Can you guess?

It’s hypertension.

And this means that you should slash your salt intake.

Hypertension, also known as “high blood pressure,” is today the leading risk factor for death on planet earth, according to the gigantic Global Burden of Disease Study, published last December.

This finding is related to diet because hypertension is a new disease for human beings. Studies in the 20th century showed that humans living in undeveloped, primitive societies simply did not get hypertension, nor even the mild age-related rise in blood pressure that your doctor would label “normal.”

With the coming of civilization, however, blood pressures rise, because salt intake rises. Salt is the sine qua non of food preservation, which is itself a signal characteristic of civilized life that appears much earlier than automobiles or drops in physical exercise.

Modern medicine is still debating the benefits of salt-restricted diets. I suspect that one reason is because even highly restricted diets today are still much saltier than our stone age physiology is tuned for. I do not think it’s too much of an exaggeration to say that one restaurant meal in America will give you more salt than your ancestors 200 generations ago ate in a month.

And, of course, salt is a fellow traveller with fat in today’s diets, so drastically cutting salt will likely cut your fat intake as well – also a good thing. The dangers of excess calories are not news to anyone.

NB: If you have high blood pressure, please take your pills. You can work on dietary changes once the pressure is well controlled.

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