Cutting This Condiment Could Reduce Your Diabetes Risk, New Study Says

Updated: Jan. 31, 2024

A new study led by researchers from Tulane University shakes out how one unexpected habit is playing into the risk for chronic metabolic disease.

There’s an old adage that the person who salts their food without tasting it first might count impulsiveness among their traits. While that might be a wives’ tale, it looks like there may be a surprising scientific flaw with being a salt lover: While the link between excessive sodium intake and heart risk is well documented, a new study says too much salt may pose a surprisingly similar risk as sugar at increasing the risk for type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes, despite its conventional association with sugar consumption, appears to be influenced by excess sodium intake. A new study, published by researchers from Tulane University in the peer-reviewed medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, delves into the relationship between the habit of adding salt to foods and the risk of type 2 diabetes as people age.

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The study aimed to explore the long-term effects of adding salt to foods, identified as a strong predictor of overall sodium levels—a marker that’s often challenging to monitor over time. To gauge participants’ relative sodium intake, the researchers examined the habits and health of over 100,000 individuals from the UK Biobank, aged 37 to 73 years, without preexisting chronic conditions. Participants were asked a straightforward question: Do you add salt to your foods? They could respond with answers that included Never/rarely, Sometimes, Usually, and Always.

Following up with the participants an average of 12 years later, the researchers discovered that those who frequently added salt to their foods had a higher incidence of type 2 diabetes. Additionally, individuals regularly adding salt to their food were more likely to have higher BMIs, increased body fat ratios, and heightened inflammation compared to those who reported that they tended to avoid adding salt.

How much salt should I eat?

Before you decide to eliminate all salt from your pantry, it’s crucial to recognize that salt, along with sodium in general, plays essential roles in the body’s functioning. This point is emphasized not only by the study, but also by the American Heart Association (AHA). The real concern lies in excessive sodium intake. However, if you have other risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes, it may be worthwhile to discuss your salt consumption with your healthcare provider to determine if it is excessive.

Reducing salt intake and cutting back on high-sodium foods, such as canned and processed foods, can lower your risk of other chronic diseases and contribute to protection against heart attacks and strokes. The AHA recommends an upper limit of 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, with less than 1,500 milligrams considered ideal.

The AHA advises individuals to be mindful of the “Salty 6,” which includes:

It also encourages people to inspect their pantries, fridges and freezers for foods with hidden sodium, such as certain snack foods, condiments, sauces, and cheese.