High Salt Intake, Higher Asthma Risks

Here's an interesting and easy solution for asthma, particularly if you're prone to attacks while exercising: Cut down on your salt intake. In fact, tapering down over just two weeks, according to an Indiana University study, eases airway inflammation and better facilitates the flow of oxygen to the bloodstream.

Twenty-four patients with asthma and exercised-induced asthma were divided into two groups: Some followed a low-salt diet of some 1,500 mg. of salt, while others were put on a high-salt diet of nearly 10,000 mg., the typical amount many Americans consume daily.

High-salt dieters demonstrated a dramatic decline in lung function after exercise. The standard measure for lung functioning -- forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) -- taken 20 minutes after high-salt dieters exercised dropped by more than 27 percent, more than three times the 7.9 percent drop experienced by the low-salt group (a FEV1 drop of more than 10 percent is abnormal). High-salt patients also had more airway cells -- another marker of asthma -- and pro-inflammatory mediators that spur airway constriction.

The source for this excessive salt intake in the average American diet: Eating too many processed foods. Cutting down on the amount of processed foods you eat will naturally and quickly bring down your salt consumption, and do your health a world of good in other areas too.

That said, you shouldn't give up salt entirely either. The trick is to find and use real salt. The differences between processed salt and the real thing:

  • Conventional processing adds harmful additives and chemicals.
  • Conventional salt is dried at temperatures higher than 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, which can change its chemical structure.

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, June 2005, Volume 37, Issue 6: 904-914

Yahoo News June 17, 2005

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