While we do not usually consider our salt intake when it comes to managing diabetes, a recent study has found out that each extra gram of sodium (or 2.5 gm of salt) per day was linked to 43 per cent higher risk of type 2 diabetes. So how does salt exactly increase our chances of diabetes or raise our blood sugar levels? We asked a few experts. (Also read: 5 amazing salt-substitutes to cut heart disease risk and add flavour to food)
Let’s begin with understanding what causes diabetes. It is basically a chronic condition that occurs when the body’s naturally made hormone insulin is not released from the pancreas to help the body metabolise food.
“Insulin is a transporter for carrying glucose (sugar) from food into your cells which the body will then be used for energy. Since glucose cannot enter the cell, it builds up in the bloodstream, damaging your organs. Any organ can be affected, including the eyes (blindness), kidneys (kidney failure), and heart (heart attack or clogged arteries). There can also be effects on the nerves (neuropathy) and blood vessels (ulcers, atherosclerosis),” says Dr RVS Bhalla, Director-Internal Medicine, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad.
CONNECTION BETWEEN HIGH SALT DIET AND DIABETES
Some population-based prospective studies in Sweden and China have shown an association that a high salt intake is associated with high blood sugar levels and elevated A1C levels (a measure of long-term blood sugar control) in people with type 2 diabetes (T2D).
“Increased dietary salt intake may suppress the activity of renin-angiotensin. An increase in salt intake also increases thirst leading to an increased intake of fluids including beverages with sugar which can be one more mechanism for increased insulin resistance. There are many discussions on this but need further studies to confirm the connection,” says Dr Bhalla.
HIGH SALT INTAKE MAY INCREASE DIABETES COMPLICATIONS
Shruti Bharadwaj, Senior Clinical Dietician, Narayana Hrudayalaya Multispeciality Hospital Ahmedabad says that while sodium intake does not have a direct impact on blood sugar, the potential complications related to diabetes like heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure is affected by its consumption.
“Sodium is a mineral that’s essential for life. It’s regulated by your kidneys, and it helps control body fluid balance, helps send nerve impulses and affect muscle function. Sodium intake can definitely affect blood pressure. According to American Heart Association – too much sodium in the blood stream can pull water into your blood vessels which further increases the amount of total amount (volume) of blood inside them,” says Bharadwaj.
“So, it’s important to control sodium intake in diabetes as precaution measure,” she adds.
HIGH SALT FOODS MAY SPIKE BLOOD SUGAR
Dr Varsha Gorey, senior clinical dietician, HOD, Dietetics Departments, Apollo Hospital, Navi Mumbai says that salty foods usually have high GI which can cause spike blood sugar levels and thus high salt intake could indirectly be related to higher risk of diabetes.
“If you are talking about diabetes, we generally talk about sugar so wonder why we talk about salt. But let’s understand what’s the role of salt. Salt is predominantly the taste factor to any food. It adds flavour. One is able to consume good amount of food on a salt diet rather than a low-salt or salt-less diet. Salt is sodium chloride while rock salt is less refined and they could be enriched with potassium. Any food which contains salt adds taste and also we find lot of processed, ready-to-eat foods have added salt. This could be breads, biscuits, pasta, noodles and pickles. So foods which contain salt and ready to eat or processed foods can indirectly affect GI index which means the food’s ability to increase blood sugar is much higher. Salt may not have direct impact on diabetes, but indirectly it may attribute to larger portion size of processed foods which is one of the causes of increase in your blood sugar levels,” says Dr Gorey.