Introduction

This chapter describes the historical importance of salt use, its production and trade throughout the centuries, and its significance in food preservation, in flavor enhancement and in food processing. Over the years, man has developed complex salt mining and drying systems, which are still in use today as the demand for salt continues to grow. Humans and other animals, exposed throughout evolution to very limited salt sources, have developed an intrinsic biological drive for salt with salt-specific taste receptors and highly effective hormonal and cellular transport systems for minimizing any salt loss from the intestine, kidney, and skin. Unfortunately, the use of highly salted food then induces a series of physio-pathological responses including changes in blood volume and hormonal and cellular changes, which lead, in conjunction with other dietary and environmental factors, to a range of disorders including high blood pressure with its increased risks of stroke, coronary heart disease, and heart failure. Excess salt intake also seem to promote the development of osteoporosis, gastric cancer, and bronchial reactivity. The relationship of salt intake to these conditions will be described and the options for limiting intakes will be outlined.

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