Do you get headaches?

There are probably things that you do even when you know they are bad for you. It might be that favourite burger joint you occasionally indulge in, that turquoise jumper you really can’t carry off, or that late night show from the mid-West United States that you always flick on…we all have our own individual points of weakness but as a society our collective point of weakness, or at least one of them, would have to be salt. Now a new study suggests that this salty predilection may be giving you a headache.

Salt is a chemical compound (electrolyte) made up of sodium and chloride. The National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia has set an “adequate intake” level for sodium of 460–920 mg per day, which corresponds to 1.15–2.3 grams of salt. So the suggested dietary target of less than four grams of salt per day is being generous and the problem is that most Australian adults have a daily salt intake of about 10 grams, an intake that is replicated around the Western world. Most of that salt is coming from processed food and it is not good for your heart, kidneys, or bones and according to the new study it might be literally giving you a headache.

The study involved two groups of people. One group was assigned to eat a Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet (rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products with reduced saturated and total fat). The other group ate a typical Western diet. Then for three 30-day periods, each participant ate food with high sodium during one period, intermediate sodium during another period, and low sodium during another period. Then, at the end of each 30 day period, the participants completed questionnaires on occurrence and severity of headache.

It emerged that people who ate foods high in sodium (around 8 g of salt per day) had 33 per cent more headaches than those who ate foods low in sodium (consuming around 4 g of salt per day). This was true regardless of whether they were on the DASH diet or not suggesting that salt somehow is involved in headache causation independent of blood pressure.

So maybe it is time to give salt the flick, and while you are at it, let the turquoise jumper and “Mid-West Turkey Hunters” go as well.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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