The Salt Fix Book Summary

This weekend I read the book The Salt Fix: Why the Experts Got it All Wrong – and How Eating More Might Save Your Life by Dr. James DiNicolantonio. I wasn’t sure I would get much value from the book since I’ve known for a decade now that the science behind the salt restriction recommendations was weak. But I did learn a lot.

Before I get to the summary, my quick review is that the author made a solid case that most of us do not need to restrict salt and in fact, some could benefit from a higher salt intake. (He did mention three cases where reduced salt intake might be appropriate: Hyperaldosteronism, Cushing’s disease, and Liddle syndrome.)

The part of the book I didn’t care for was his demonization of sugar as THE driver of obesity and other health ailments. Sugar likely plays a role in obesity and diabetes, but it is not the sole driver. See the charts on Carbohydrate, Sugar, and Obesity in America and then try to explain that sugar is THE cause of obesity and diabetes. Doesn’t work so well. Which means it is either something else or a combination of factors.

Notes for The Salt Fix

  • Cold extremities might be a signal that you need more salt.
  • Chronic salt depletion can increase insulin levels because insulin helps the kidneys retain more sodium.
  • 8-10 grams of salt = 3-4 grams of sodium
  • A person with normal kidney function and normal blood pressure can “easily” excrete 10x as much salt as a person would normally consume in a day.
  • Early evolution foods were aquatic and had much higher levels of salt than the foods most commonly consumed today.
  • “On average, our kidneys may filter between 3.2 – 3.6 pounds of salt (1.28 and 1.44 pounds of sodium) per day.” (p 28)
  • Low salt intake stresses the kidneys and results in lower energy to avoid sweating. This could lead to weight gain.
  • Romans consumed 25 grams of salt daily. 16th century Europeans 40 grams a day and 18th century Europeans 70 grams a day.
  • Salt is anti-microbial. (As someone with extensive fermentation experience, I knew this.) This means that salt can protect from food-borne illnesses. Foods with lower salt levels tend to have a shorter shelf life.
  • Increasing potassium can help regulate blood pressure, which helps reduce hypertension.
  • Low carb dieters need an additional 2 grams of salt a day.
  • Higher salt intake reduces stress/anxiety. (Remember my sleep dust post?) 
  • Salt is non-addictive. The body senses when it has enough and can sweat out the excess.
  • Some people need more salt than others. People that exercise more and those of that consume a fair amount of caffeine. If you sweat more in general, you’ll need more salt. This could be from a hot environment or sauna use. (Side note: During Army Basic training in the Georgia heat, me and my fellow soldiers occasionally had to drink a full canteen of salt water.)
  • The Salt Thermostat is a concept that the body has a set point for salt. This is a complex system that helps protect the body so it has the ideal salt level. When salt levels drop, craving for salt increases.
  • Consuming salt prior to and during exercise can help the body cool off faster due to increased blood circulation.
  • More salt is needed during pregnancy and for breastfeeding mothers.
  • The book lists 22 ways in which sugar causes salt depletion. (Some of these are a reach, but the take-home lesson is increasing salt and decreasing sugar is good advice for most people.)
  • Higher salt is good for the skin when it is sweated out. It can fight off bacterial infections.
  • The end of the book covers the pros and cons of different salts. The author likes Redmond Sea Salt the best.

Although it is not mentioned in the book, Dr. DiNicolantonio covered how salt might be preventive in tooth decay in the article This Surprising Mineral Can Counteract The Effects Of Sugar.

Another interesting tidbit from that article:

Salt also helps with digestion. Indeed, salt is made up of two essential minerals: sodium and chloride. Chloride is needed in the production of stomach acid, helping with digestion of food and absorbing nutrients

Although I have not been avoiding salt, I think I could increase my intake a little. Normally, I wake up and drink a few glasses of water, then drink coffee, and then go to the gym. What I’ll experiment with is consuming 3-5 grams of salt with water before my coffee and exercise.

salt fix book

The Salt Fix: Why the Experts Got It All Wrong–and How Eating More Might Save Your Life by James DiNicolantonio (Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada)

The Longevity Diet Book Overview

In December I posted Fasting Mimicking Diet Overview, which was a collection of notes I took from a podcast interview with Dr. Valter Longo. The short version of that post is that by engaging in a low-calorie, very-low protein “fast” for 5 days, one could reap many regenerative health benefits.

I really loved the interview and because I had a deep interest in this topic and wanted to learn more, I read his recently published book The Longevity Diet.

The Longevity Diet: Discover the New Science Behind Stem Cell Activation and Regeneration to SlowAging, Fight Disease, and Optimize Weight (Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

The book covers two diets:

  1. The Longevity Diet
  2. The Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD)

The Longevity Diet is basically a low-protein mostly vegan diet with some fish. The diet is also low in sugar. Complex carbohydrate sources are recommended. Olive oil and nuts are ideal for fats.

The Fasting Mimicking Diet is the low-calorie “fast” diet that one does for 5 days that was outlined in my December post. How many times a year a person engages in the fast will depend on their health status. People in worse health (obesity, autoimmune, high-risk for cancer or other serious ailments) may do the FMD monthly, whereas a top athlete might do it once or twice a year. Everyone else, somewhere in between.

The book was clearly written for the average person that doesn’t dig into the health literature as much as we do. The book is only 217 pages worth of content before you get to the menus in the Appendix. Even at this short length, the core ideas are repeated over and over. This is probably good for someone concerned about their health that needs their hand held through these ideas.

For me, I felt the book was fluff compared to the Found My Fitness interview, which dug deeper into the topic. The questions I wanted to be answered in the book weren’t. There were also statements made in the book that were never backed up. Some examples:

  • As someone dealing with an injury now, I wanted to know the role stem cells might play in repair. This also extends to exercise recovery. Not covered.
  • How stem cells work is never really explained. Because it is the very foundation of the book, I felt it that was a gross oversight. Why would an expert on stem cells that finally has an audience with the general public assume that their knowledge of what stem cells can or can’t do is accurate and complete?
  • I’m also interested in skin health, as readers of my October posts on sunscreen know. At one point, Longo states a patient that did his FMD Diet had “glowing skin”, with no follow-up explanation. Why was her skin glowing? What was the mechanism? There was also a mention of skin cancer with no follow-up. You’d think any book on longevity would address skin health, but it doesn’t.
  • Throughout the book, we are told to avoid bad fats, which are listed as saturated fats and trans fats. Why do health writers always put saturated fats in the same sentence as trans fats? Trans fats are not saturated fats, they are unsaturated. Everyone knows trans fats are bad. I was hoping to get the opinion of a longevity researcher on specifically why saturated fats are bad. Nope. They got lumped in with trans fats. Guilty. Maybe saturated fats are bad for longevity? If they are, I didn’t learn why from this book.

I still am interested in trying the Fasting Mimicking Diet and even incorporating some of the food recommendations in the Longevity Diet. However, The Longevity Diet could have been a much better book.

UPDATE: I Completed My First 5-Day Fasting Mimicking Diet

Book Notes: The First 20 Hours

Today, I was organizing all my Google Drive files and I found a blog post outline from 2013 that I never published. That summer I read the excellent book The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast! by Josh Kaufman.

Since reading the book, I have tackled learning a few skills. I’m good at #1 (choose a lovable project), but poor at #2 (one skill at a time). But I’m getting better.

Probably the best tip I have to learning a new skill is to just get started. We waste too much time looking for the best tools and hacks to learn something as an avoidance tactic for that first week (or 20 hours) of being frustrated. You can always change tools later and often we don’t know which tool is going to be best until we start the work. I touched on this briefly in my 2016 post Learn a Foreign Language SUPER FAST or Not.

Here are the notes I took in 2013.

10 Principles of Rapid Skill Acquisition

  1. Choose a lovable project
  2. Focus your energy on one skill at a time
  3. Define your target performance level.
  4. Deconstruct the skill into sub-skills.
  5. Obtain critical tools.
  6. Eliminate barriers to practice.
  7. Make dedicated time to practice.
  8. Create fast feedback loops.
  9. Practice by the clock in short bursts.
  10. Emphasize quantity and speed. (ceramics)

Barriers to practice

  • significant pre-practice effort (misplacing tools)
  • intermittent resource availability (using borrowed equipment)
  • environmental distractions (TV, email, phone)
  • emotional blocks (fear, doubt, embarrassment)

Don’t rely on willpower to overcome these barriers. Rearrange your environment.

10 Principles of Effective Learning

  1. Research the skill and related topics.
  2. Jump in over your head.
  3. Identify mental models and mental hooks.
  4. Imagine the opposite of what you want.
  5. Talk to practitioners to set expectations.
  6. Eliminate distractions in your environment.
  7. Use spaced repetition and reinforcement for memorization.
  8. Create scaffolds and checklists.
  9. Make and test predictions.
  10. Honor your biology.

first 20 hours

The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast! by Josh Kaufman. (Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada