Ask anyone what’s the main health risk of too much salt and the answer you’ll likely get is the obvious one: high blood pressure. Indeed, scientists estimate that a mere 15% cutback in salt intake could translate into nearly 9 million fewer deaths caused by hypertension related complications. But research has identified other potential salt-related health risks most folks don’t know about. One of the more surprising ones: weaker bones and potentially higher fracture risk.

In a study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, British researchers varied the salt content of meals for eleven postmenopausal women, and then measured how much calcium was excreted in their urine. The result: Calcium loss averaged 17% higher on the high-sodium diets vs.low-sodium diets. The finding should be of particular concern to peri- and postmenopausal women, among whom hormonal changes can accelerate loss of bone mass. Most Americans are overdosing on salt — with women consuming more than double — and men more than triple — the recommended adequate intake of sodium.

In addition to hiking blood pressure (by causing water retention that in turn puts pressure on blood vessels), excess sodium can also lead to pregnancy complications, insomnia, kidney stones, respiratory problems and, as mentioned above, loss of bone mass. Fruit and vegetables on the other hand, help the body retain more calcium — and also help you avoid excess body fat, which in and of itself can also increase osteoporosis risk.

Bonus: Aim to increase top sources of vitamin K, such as kale, spinach, cabbage,broccoli and Romaine lettuce.The Framingham Heart Study found that seniors with a high dietary intake of vitamin K had a 65% lower risk of hip fractures.
Published January 1, 2011