What follows is a slightly modified version of an article I wrote for the monthly glossy magazine of Mensa, the high IQ society, of which I am a member. It was published in the December 2004 issue. Four months later, the April 2005 issue contained a letter from Joyce Barnard, who has given permission for her name to be used here. She wrote that by following the advice I had given her a few years earlier - i.e. that to lower her high blood pressure and lose weight she simply needed to eat less sodium - she had lost 5 stones in weight (70 pounds) in a year! - All she did was stop sprinkling salt onto her meals and use LoSalt instead of ordinary salt when cooking.
Many years ago I gained a great deal of weight because of taking HRT prescribed by my GPs, mainly on the advice of an endocrinologist. - I did not realise at the time that the weight gain was because of the medication.
I became desperately ill and exhausted and had very high blood pressure for which I took Atenolol, a beta-blocker. I was so fat I could barely walk. Yet I was not overeating. My feet, hands and breasts were exquisitely painful and very red and swollen. I was unable to use my hands for many tasks. I needed a larger size in shoes. My face and neck became beetroot red and very swollen. I developed acne and eczema. I suffered from breathlessness.
Having never sprinkled salt on my food in my life, and never used it in cooking, in 1997 I became aware that there was a lot of salt in bread and cheese and breakfast cereals. Because of the connection between hypertension and salt intake I altered my eating to reduce, and eventually to exclude, all avoidable sodium. This lowered my blood pressure and I no longer needed to take Atenolol.
More spectacularly, and very unexpectedly to me, eating less salt reduced my weight by 51 pounds! - This was nothing to do with calories, fat or sugar. - The weight I lost was clearly water, which I worked out was held in my body by the salt - held in my veins, which had become massively distended and painful since I had embarked on the HRT.
I worked out that it was the oestrogen that had caused the sodium and water retention and this was confirmed when I looked in the British National Formulary for the side-effects of oestrogen. I then realised that oestrogen was a steroid, though it is not normally thought of in that category, and that the sodium and water retention came about because certain steroids and certain other prescribed drugs relax/weaken the walls of the blood vessels so that they take in excess salt and the water which accompanies it. I realised that I was a 'steroid victim'.
For many years I have been providing a free telephone helpline for people in pain in my area and for the last five years have been advising all callers to reduce their salt intake, particularly when they were obese. Their weight loss, too, has been dramatic and swift. One Mensa member whom I helped lost about a stone in a month just by eating less salt. Her dog, too, lost weight when she stopped salting his food!
I firmly believe that the massive rise in the incidence of obesity, especially child obesity, is due to the prevalence of salt in modern diets, mainly from manufactured foods, and that calorie counting and advice about reducing fat and calorie intake and increasing exercise are counter-productive.
But salt causes obesity only in vulnerable people, i.e.
People whose veins are weak because of immaturity (babies, children),
People whose veins are weak because of steroids or HRT or amitriptyline or certain other prescribed drugs, too readily prescribed, often in very high dose,
People whose natural oestrogen levels are higher than normal (e.g. pregnant women).
People whose blood vessel walls have been weakened by 'slimming' - i.e. eating insufficient food.
Inactivity does not cause obesity. Obesity causes inactivity.
In 2001 I wrote to MPs, to medical people, to journalists, to nutritionists and others, explaining that salt sensitivity is what causes obesity, and urging that the facts be made known, particularly to steroid victims. The powerful and influential people to whom I wrote have taken no action to give publicity to the life-saving message. The public is not being told the truth about weight gain and weight loss. The best, the healthiest, the safest way to lose weight is to concentrate on eating less salt (and more potassium).
An Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Oxford*, wrote back to me in August 2001 that I was right about steroids causing weight gain because of salt and water retention and that weight can be lost by eating less salt or by taking diuretics. Sadly he seems to be the only medic who knows this! - A book on salt, written by experts on hypertension and brought out in a blaze of publicity a few years ago makes no mention of steroid victims and specifically states, among other errors, that HRT does not cause a salt problem.
A person who gains weight has a higher calorie requirement. There are two reasons for this. Having to carry a greater mass around and service a more massive body uses more calories. And having a bigger surface area means greater heat loss, since heat lost is proportional to surface area. - A greater calorie requirement results in greater appetite/hunger, so, really, overweight people need to eat more than people of normal weight. If the overweight eat insufficient calories (i.e. if they 'diet') they may lose weight, but it is at the cost of being hungry. There has never been the slightest evidence that the practice of fewer calories in and more calories out by way of exercise reduces obesity! - It is often confidently stated that fat will be lost by doing this. - Sadly, what is more often lost is lean tissue, usually an irreversible adverse effect.
The result of the misunderstanding of the cause of obesity is the well-known fact that over 95% of dieters actually gain weight in the long term! - They cannot be expected to go hungry all the time. - Nor would staying hungry all the time benefit them. - With insufficient calories for the body's needs, the body feeds on itself. - The skin becomes thinner; the bones become less dense; there is some hair loss, etc.
Contrast this with the right way to lose weight - by eating less sodium. - Eating less sodium releases some of the excess sodium and water held in the blood stream. This lowers the blood pressure and, significantly, lowers the weight. - Weighing less results in a lower calorie requirement so very gradually less food is eaten and this becomes a virtuous circle because less food eaten results in lower sodium intake.
In societies in which no salt is eaten (what some might describe as undeveloped or uncivilised societies) there is no obesity and no hypertension.
The cavemen and women who were our ancestors lived for millennia without added salt. Our bodies evolved on a low sodium and high potassium intake. The modern diet has reversed this to high sodium and low potassium. The intake of salt has massively increased in recent years - as has the incidence of obesity.
I submit that the universal 'slimming' advice - to eat fewer calories/less fat and to take more exercise - is a major cause of obesity. - All that is normally necessary to lose weight is to eat less salt/sodium. This is a drug-free, cost-free course of action. There are no hunger pangs and no adverse side-effects. It requires no visits to the doctor or to the gym and it WILL work.
Lose weight by eating less salt!-Go on!-Try it! My website http://www.wildeaboutsteroids.co.uk/ provides more details and advice.
Anyone is welcome to copy this article in whole or in part, provided only that it is always attributed to me, Margaret Wilde, that the information is provided free, and that my website address http://www.wildeaboutsteroids.co.uk/ is always included.
*The Emeritus Professor at Oxford who replied to my letter was Professor Sir Richard Doll, who first drew the world's attention to the connection between smoking and lung cancer. He agreed with what I had written about the obesity problems caused by poor prescribing and indicated that these could be lessened by diuretics and/or by eating less salt/sodium, a fact I had already deduced. He wrote that all doctors should know this. - Mine didn't - and furthermore, mine CATEGORICALLY refused me diuretics when I asked to try them!
It is over 50 years since steroids were first prescribed and it is scandalous that most doctors are still unaware in practice of their potential for causing sodium and water retention and morbid obesity and the multitude of serious health problems attendant on these - high blood pressure, osteoporosis, heart disease, most types of cancer, stroke, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and other degenerative diseases.
In recent years people have been eating more convenience foods and these are high in salt. Salt can cause obesity and health problems in vulnerable people. read more
If you have gained a lot of weight and become obese because of
taking prescribed steroids or HRT then I have very good news for you!
When children become fat it is essentially because they are eating salty food. Children are especially vulnerable to salt because of their small size and small blood volume, and because their blood vessels are weaker than those of adults... read more
During pregnancy a woman's hormone levels alter. The hormone most relevant to undesirable weight gain is oestrogen... read more
Patients may sometimes find it helps with the problem for which it has been prescribed, but be that as it may, it frequently produces a host of adverse side-effects, including weight gain... read more
...most or possibly all of these symptoms are the result of fluid retention and will be lessened or avoided by reducing salt intake... read more