People with a lot of salt in their diets are prone to developing kidney stones, osteoporosis and other problems, according to new research that finds sodium depletes healthy levels of calcium in the body.
The study, by University of Alberta medical researchers, found that when salt intake is too high, the body gets rid of sodium via the urine – taking calcium with it. High levels of calcium in the urine, in turn, can lead to kidney stones, while inadequate levels of calcium can cause thin bones and osteoporosis.
"When the body tries to get rid of sodium via the urine, our findings suggest the body also gets rid of calcium at the same time," said Todd Alexander, who led the study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Renal Physiology. "This is significant because we are eating more and more sodium in our diets, which means our bodies are getting rid of more and more calcium. Our findings reinforce why it is important to have a low-sodium diet and why it is important to have lower sodium levels in processed foods."
In laboratory experiments, Alexander and his team found sodium and calcium are regulated by the same molecule in the body. A editorial that accompanied the journal study said the newly discovered molecule could be a drug target to one day "treat kidney stones and osteoporosis."
Nearly 10 percent of adults will have a kidney stone at least once in their lifetime, U.S. health statistics show. Recent studies have also show the prevalence of kidney stones is increasing in the U.S., which may be due to high rates of obesity and diabetes, along with increased salt intake.