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Home / Diets / Himalayan Pink Salt: A Total Nutritional Disaster…

Himalayan Pink Salt: A Total Nutritional Disaster…

Introduction

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.

Postscript:

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.

References

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/

9.file:///C:/Users/odc/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/INetCache/IE/60O6YGP4/Real-Salt-Analysis.pdf

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18.Jacobs MM, Pienta RJ.  Relationships between potassium and cancer.  In: Vitamins and Minerals in the Prevention and Treatment of Cancer (Jacobs MM [ed.]), 1991, CRC Press, Boston, Chapter 16, 227-245.

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Intracellular ionic consequences of dietary salt loading in essential hypertension. Relation to blood pressure and effects of calcium channel blockade. J Clin Invest. 1994 Sep;94(3):1269-76

20.He FJ, Markandu ND, Sagnella GA, de Wardener HE, MacGregor GA.  Plasma sodium: ignored and underestimated. Hypertension. 2005 Jan;45(1):98-102.

21.Titze J, Rakova N, Kopp C, Dahlmann A, Jantsch J, Luft FC. Balancing wobbles in the body sodium. Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2016 Jul;31(7):1078-81.  

22.Kopp C, Linz P, Dahlmann A, Hammon M, Jantsch J, Müller DN, Schmieder RE, Cavallaro A, Eckardt KU, Uder M, Luft FC, Titze J. 23Na magnetic resonance imaging-determined tissue sodium in healthy subjects and hypertensive patients. Hypertension. 2013 Mar;61(3):635-40

23.Amara S, Tiriveedhi V. Inflammatory role of high salt level in tumor microenvironment (Review).  Int J Oncol. 2017 May;50(5):1477-1481

24.Amara S, Alotaibi D, Tiriveedhi V. NFAT5/STAT3 interaction mediates synergism of high salt with IL-17 towards induction of VEGF-A expression in breast cancer cells. Oncol Lett. 2016 Aug;12(2):933-943

25.Amara S, Zheng M, Tiriveedhi V. Oleanolic acid inhibits high salt-induced exaggeration of warburg-like metabolism in breast cancer cells. Cell Biochem Biophys. 2016 Sep;74(3):427-34.

26.Amara S, Whalen M, Tiriveedhi V. High salt induces anti-inflammatory MΦ2-like phenotype in peripheral macrophages. Biochem Biophys Rep. 2016 Sep;7:1-9

27.Amara S, Ivy MT, Myles EL, Tiriveedhi V. Sodium channel γENaC mediates IL-17 synergized high salt induced inflammatory stress in breast cancer cells. Cell Immunol. 2016 Apr; 302:1-10

28.Davies RJ, Sandle GI, Thompson SM. Inhibition of the Na+,K(+)-ATPase pump during induction of experimental colon cancer. Cancer Biochem Biophys. 1991 Aug;12(2):81-94.

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.

30.Fine BP, Hansen KA, Walters TR, Denny TN.  Dietary sodium deprivation inhibits cellular proliferation: evidence for circulating factor(s). In: Vitamins and Minerals in the Prevention and Treatment of Cancer, (Maryce M. Jacobs, Ed.), CRC Press, Boston, 1991, p 276.

31.Fine BP, Ponzio NM, Denny TN, Maher E, Walters TR. Restriction of tumor growth in mice by sodium-deficient diet. Cancer Res. 1988 Jun 15;48(12):3445-8.

32.Davies RJ, Daly JM. Potassium depletion and malignant transformation of villous adenomas of the colon and rectum. Cancer. 1984 Mar 15;53(6):1260-4.

33.Jantsch J, Schatz V, Friedrich D et al. Cutaneous Na+ storage strengthens the antimicrobial barrier function of the skin and boosts macrophage-driven host defense. Cell Metab. 2015 Mar 3;21(3):493-501.  

34.Kleinewietfeld M, Manzel A, Titze J, Kvakan H, Yosef N, Linker RA, Muller DN, Hafler DA.  Sodium chloride drives autoimmune disease by the induction of pathogenic TH17 cells. Nature. 2013 Apr 25;496(7446):518-22

35.Zostawa J, Adamczyk J, Sowa P, Adamczyk-Sowa M. The influence of sodium on pathophysiology of multiple sclerosis. Neurol Sci. 2017 Mar;38(3):389-398.  

36.Dmitrieva NI, Burg MB. Elevated sodium and dehydration stimulate inflammatory signaling in endothelial cells and promote atherosclerosis. PLoS One. 2015 Jun 4;10(6): e0128870. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0128870.

37.Schatz V, Neubert P, Schröder A, Binger K, Gebhard M, Müller DN, Luft FC, Titze J, Jantsch J. Elementary immunology: Na+ as a regulator of immunity. Pediatr Nephrol. 2017 Feb;32(2):201-210.  

38.Hernandez AL, Kitz A, Wu C, Lowther DE, Rodriguez DM, Vudattu N, Deng S, Herold KC, Kuchroo VK, Kleinewietfeld M, Hafler DA. Sodium chloride inhibits the suppressive function of FOXP3+ regulatory T cells. J Clin Invest. 2015 Nov 2;125(11):4212-22.  

39.Yi B, Titze J, Rykova M, Feuerecker M, Vassilieva G, Nichiporuk I, Schelling G, Morukov B, Choukèr A. Effects of dietary salt levels on monocytic cells and immune responses in healthy human subjects: a longitudinal study. Transl Res. 2015 Jul;166(1):103-10.  

40.Zhou X, Zhang L, Ji WJ, Yuan F, Guo ZZ, Pang B, Luo T, Liu X, Zhang WC, Jiang TM, Zhang Z, Li YM. Variation in dietary salt intake induces coordinated dynamics of monocyte subsets and monocyte-platelet aggregates in humans: implications in end organ inflammation. PLoS One. 2013 Apr 4;8(4):e60332.

41.Zhou X, Yuan F, Ji WJ, Guo ZZ, Zhang L, Lu RY, Liu X, Liu HM, Zhang WC, Jiang TM, Zhang Z, Li YM. High-salt intake induced visceral adipose tissue hypoxia and its association with circulating monocyte subsets in humans. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2014 Jun;22(6):1470-6.  

42Wu C, Yosef N, Thalhamer T, Zhu C, Xiao S, Kishi Y, Regev A, Kuchroo VK. Induction of pathogenic TH17 cells by inducible salt-sensing kinase SGK1. Nature. 2013 Apr 25;496(7446):513-7.  

43.Kostyk AG, Dahl KM, Wynes MW, Whittaker LA, Weiss DJ, Loi R, Riches DW. Regulation of chemokine expression by NaCl occurs independently of cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator in macrophages. Am J Pathol. 2006 Jul;169(1):12-20.

44.Lang KS, Fillon S, Schneider D, Rammensee HG, Lang F. Stimulation of TNF alpha expression by hyperosmotic stress. Pflugers Arch. 2002 Mar;443(5-6):798-803.  

45.Ip WK, Medzhitov R. Macrophages monitor tissue osmolarity and induce inflammatory response through NLRP3 and NLRC4 inflammasome activation. Nat Commun. 2015 May 11;6:6931.  

46.Foss JD, Kirabo A, Harrison DG. Do high-salt microenvironments drive hypertensive inflammation? Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2017 Jan 1;312(1):R1-R4

47.Binger KJ, Gebhardt M, Heinig M et al. High salt reduces the activation of IL-4- and IL-13-stimulated macrophages. J Clin Invest. 2015 Nov 2;125(11):4223-38

48.Min B, Fairchild RL. Over-salting ruins the balance of the immune menu.  J Clin Invest. 2015 Nov 2;125(11):4002-4.  

49.Frassetto L, Morris RC Jr, Sellmeyer DE, Todd K, Sebastian A. Diet, evolution and aging–the pathophysiologic effects of the post-agricultural inversion of the potassium-to-sodium and base-to-chloride ratios in the human diet. Eur J Nutr. 2001 Oct;40(5):200-13

50.Cordain L, Eaton SB, Sebastian A, Mann N, Lindeberg S, Watkins BA, O’Keefe JH, Brand-Miller J. Origins and evolution of the western diet: Health implications for the 21st century. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81:341-54.

51.Carrera-Bastos P, Fontes Villalba M, O’Keefe JH, Lindeberg S, Cordain L. The western diet and lifestyle and diseases of civilization. Res Rep Clin Cardiol 2011; 2: 215-235.

52.Dmitrieva NI, Burg MB. High NaCl promotes cellular senescence. Cell Cycle. 2007 Dec 15;6(24):3108-13.  

53.Dmitrieva NI, Chen HT, Nussenzweig A, Burg MB. Knockout of Ku86 accelerates cellular senescence induced by high NaCl. Aging (Albany NY). 2009 Feb;1(2):245-53.

54.Yamakami Y, Yonekura R, Matsumoto Y, Takauji Y, Miki K, Fujii M, Ayusawa D.

High concentrations of NaCl induce cell swelling leading to senescence in human cells. Mol Cell Biochem. 2016 Jan;411(1-2):117-25.  

55.Zhu H, Bhagatwala J, Pollock NK, Parikh S, Gutin B, Stallmann-Jorgensen I, Thomas J, Harshfield GA, Dong Y. High sodium intake is associated with short leukocyte telomere length in overweight and obese adolescents. Int J Obes (Lond). 2015 Aug;39(8):1249-53.  

 

About Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor Emeritus

Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor EmeritusDr. Loren Cordain is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. His research emphasis over the past 20 years has focused upon the evolutionary and anthropological basis for diet, health and well being in modern humans. Dr. Cordain’s scientific publications have examined the nutritional characteristics of worldwide hunter-gatherer diets as well as the nutrient composition of wild plant and animal foods consumed by foraging humans. He is the world’s leading expert on Paleolithic diets and has lectured extensively on the Paleolithic nutrition worldwide. Dr. Cordain is the author of six popular bestselling books including The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook, The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Answer, and The Paleo Diet Cookbook, summarizing his research findings.


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