A few days ago while I was wandering the aisles at our local Sprouts Market and picking up a few packages of fresh blackberries for $ 0.77 a box, I noticed at the checkout stand that Mark Sisson had launched his inaugural issue of Primal Living Magazine (Summer 2018). Kudos to Mark for promoting a Paleo friendly lifestyle with his new magazine.
Nevertheless, on the very first page of Mark’s publication, he indicated, “I’m not a scientist or doctor, I’m an athlete, coach and student on a lifelong quest for optimal health, happiness, and peak performance.” Nothing wrong here – dude! Keep up your quest, but be objective and always take in the most current science.
Mark gets most of the nutritional issues right in his inaugural magazine, but fails the Paleo community and just about everybody else in the western world when he penned a short piece (“The Good Side of Salt”, Mark Sisson’s Primal Living, Summer 2018, p. 60).
Mark wrote, “And salt just makes food taste better. Make a point of sticking with the good stuff—Himalayan pink salt, Real Salt, and Celtic Sea salt. These natural, unrefined versions provide all of the taste of salt and, unlike table salt, still include all the essential minerals your body needs to rehydrate those cells and help to evenly distribute all that sodium.”
Hmm? I don’t know what information Mark has been reading about Himalayan salt, but he and his staff of fact checkers should re-check their “facts” before Mark publicly opens his mouth again about this topic. Himalayan pink salt is virtually identical to everyday, refined table salt when it comes to its sodium chloride (NaCl) content. Further, another myth promoted by Mark is that Himalayan pink salt “includes all the essential minerals your body needs to rehydrate those cells and help to evenly distribute all that sodium”. What a bunch of non-scientific crap. Sisson’s statement is not only outlandishly embarrassing to himself, but wildly incorrect and represents a disservice to the Paleo Diet community and to all rational people in general.
Refined table salt contains 99.8 to 99.95 % NaCl on a per weight basis (1, 2), and Himalayan pink salt is not much better with 97.35 % NaCl (3). So, if you were to eat a gram (1000 mg) of refined salt (998 – 995 mg NaCl) or a gram of Himalayan pink salt (973 mg NaCl) you would be getting a huge dose of salt with either one, compared to recommended values (1500-2300 mg salt daily).
Back to the science – let’s examine and debunk Mark’s statement. “And salt just makes food taste better (or is it your addiction to salt, Mark?). Make a point of sticking with the good stuff—Himalayan pink salt, Real Salt, and Celtic Sea salt.”
Himalayan pink salt is not “good stuff” but represents evaporated ancient ocean minerals with nearly the same NaCl concentration as refined table salt (1-3) and is currently mined at the Khewra salt mine in Punjab, Pakistan as rock salt (4). Mined rock salt represents perhaps the only mineral that humans regularly ingest from non-biological or non-organic substances. Accordingly, from an evolutionary basis it could not contain “all the essential minerals your body needs” as Mark suggests. Otherwise, we would only need to eat mined rock salt (Ha, Ha Mark). Rather, this mined rock salt ore contains only small concentrations of just a few minerals known in human nutrition (3, 5, 6, 9).
For instance, we all know that adequate calcium intake is required for good bone health. On average adult men and women require about 1000 mg of calcium per day. A 1 gram (1000 mg) serving of any evaporated sea salt (including Himalayan pink salt, Celtic Sea Salt or Real Salt) contains between 3-5 mg of calcium (2-7) or about 200 to 333 times less calcium than the daily recommended intake (DRI) for calcium of 1000 mg. Himalayan pink salt (and all other evaporated sea salts) represents not only an abysmal source of dietary calcium but of all other human mineral requirements including potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, selenium, manganese and iodine (2, 3, 5, 6, 9). Check out the analytic data bases of dried sea salt for yourself (2, 3, 5-7, 9). If you doubt this conclusion, then ask Mark, where he went wrong in his dietary recommendations?
I have previously written a blog about Celtic Sea Salt (7), and similar to Himalayan pink salt, this salty chemical derived from sea water is mainly composed of NaCl, but also contains even more concentrated NaCl than evaporated sea water (2, 7). Accordingly, Celtic Sea Salt my even be worse for your health than Himalayan sea salt.
The next salty dog on Mark’s list of “good stuff” is “Real Salt”. I had never heard of this product, but a quick Google search brought it immediately to my attention. “Real Salt” is virtually identical to Himalayan pink salt except that it is mined from the Redmond salt mine near Redmond, Utah (population ~ 740 people) which boasts rock salt mining as its major economic basis and “Real Salt” as its major economic product. Like Himalayan salt, Redmond rock salt is similarly pink in color and is mined from ancient sea beds of evaporated salt water (8).
The “Real Salt” corporation provides its own salt elemental analysis via curtesy from Advanced Laboratories, Inc. in Salt Lake City, UT (9). The results from Advanced Laboratories are not surprising and differ little from those previously obtained from either Himalayan salt (3), evaporated sea salt (5,6) or from Celtic Sea Salt (7). The Advanced Laboratories analyses confirm the notion that from a nutritional basis, evaporated sea salt, regardless of its worldwide geographical location, is not only high in salt (NaCl) concentration (98 %) but extremely low (mg per 1.4 grams) in any element important in human nutrition including: calcium (0.50 %), potassium (0.10 %), magnesium (0.09 %), iron (0.05 %), iodine (0.002 %), and zinc (0.00009 %).
End of issue: let the data speak for itself. Mark Sisson, you owe your readers a huge correction on this topic, but you also owe them an apology for your lack of scientific judgement and credulity.
For those readers doubting that increased consumption of salt impairs health, well-being and optimal human function, I suggest that you carefully read the extensive list of scientific papers (10-55). Further, encourage Mark Sisson to read these papers before he speaks on the topic again.
1.Kurlansky M. Salt, A World History. Penguin Books, NY, NY, 2002.
2.Cordain, L. Sea Salt: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. https://thepaleodiet.com/sea-salt-devil-deep-blue-sea/
3.Certificate of the analysis of the original Himalayan crystal salt. Institute of Biophysical Research, Las Vegas NV, June 2001. file:///C:/Users/odc/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/INetCache/IE/4KA8R6CN/Certificate%20of%20the%20Analysis%20of%20the%20Original%20Himalayan%20Crystal%20Salt.pdf
4.Himalayan Salt. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himalayan_salt
5.Castro P, Huber M. Marine Biology, McGraw-Hill, 9th Ed., New York, NY, 2012.
6.Baseggio G. 1974. The composition of seawater and its concentrates. Proc. 4th Int. Symp. Salt Vol. 2, pp. 351-358. Northern Ohio Geological Society, Inc., Cleveland, OH.
7.Cordain, L. Celtic Sea Salt (Sel Gris): Not Even a Pinch Paleo. https://thepaleodiet.com/celtic-sea-salt/
8.Real Salt. https://realsalt.com/
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29.Thompson, Davies RJ. A high potassium diet prevents transepithelial depolarization in experimental colon cancer. In: Vitamins and Minerals in the Prevention and Treatment of Cancer, (Maryce M. Jacobs, Ed.), CRC Press, Boston, 1991, p 263.
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