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A PINCH OF SALT?
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TAKE IT WITH A PINCH OF SALT?


FOR thousands of years common salt, otherwise known as sodium chloride, has been used to preserve and enhance the flavour of our food. It is present in our sweat and we can taste it in our tears.  In more recent times it has been used to make our roads safer when snow or ice is forecast, disinfect and soften our water and is invaluable to the chemicals industry. 

This mineral has long been vilified by some sectors of the health industry, and whilst opinion is divided on the pros and cons of salt consumption, it remains fundamental to life and good health.

Every cell in the body contains salt.  The body needs it to regulate the amount of fluid entering the blood and tissues and to maintain the body's alkali/acid balance.  Salt assists in food digestion, protects from infection and transmits signals to the brain and nerve impulses around the body.  Additionally, it is essential for the contraction of muscles, including the most important muscle, the heart.

Clearly then, insufficient salt would prevent a body from functioning properly.  Why, then is there so much concern regarding the increase in the population's level of salt intake?  In recent years there have been many reports on the harmful effects of a diet high in salt.  It is claimed that salt is a major factor in causing high blood pressure (or hypertension) which may increase the risk of a stroke or heart attack.  It has also been linked to diseases such as gastric cancer and osteoporosis.

Conflicting viewpoints published by various groups (including pressure groups, medical experts, the food industry, the media and the government) have led to indecisive opinions.  It is more likely that a doctor would consider smoking, alcohol intake, or obesity before recommending a lower intake of salt to a patient with high blood pressure. 

There is no direct scientific evidence to suggest that the population would benefit from a reduction in salt consumption.  A healthy body uses only the salt it needs, disposing of any excess through the kidneys, but the body has to replace what it does use. So how do we find the right balance?

Due to consumer pressure, many food manufacturers are reducing the salt content of their products and providing nutritional advice on their labels.  Maybe, before we shake the salt cellar, we should read the information on the food packaging. 

After all, it is said that we are what we eat and therefore, nothing should be taken in excess.  Perhaps we should err on the side of caution; then we can just throw the hype over our shoulder!

Frances White

RESTORATION

THE Lion Salt Works were one of the contenders in the BBC2s programme ‘Restoration’ on July 27th.  Andrew Fielding wrote about the site in the August magazine. 
Corrosion by the salt causes a lot of problems to the buildings.  They did not win their area heat to go on to the finals.



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