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Pink Himalayan vs. Table Salt: Which Is Healthier?

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By Dr. Keith Pearson

Pink Himalayan salt is a type of salt that's naturally pink in color and mined near the Himalayas in Pakistan.


Many people claim that it's loaded with minerals and provides incredible health benefits.

For these reasons, pink Himalayan salt is often thought to be much healthier than regular table salt.

However, little research on pink Himalayan salt exists, and other people insist that these extravagant health claims are nothing more than speculation.

This article looks at the key differences between pink Himalayan salt and regular salt and evaluates the evidence to decide which type of salt is healthier.

What Is Salt?

Salt is a mineral largely consisting of the compound sodium chloride.

Salt contains so much sodium chloride—around 98 percent by weight—that most people use the words "salt" and "sodium" interchangeably.

Salt can be produced by evaporating salt water or extracting solid salt from underground salt mines.

Before it reaches your grocery store, table salt also goes through a refining process to remove impurities and any other minerals besides sodium chloride.

Anticaking agents are sometimes added to help absorb moisture, and iodine is often included to help consumers prevent iodine deficiency.

Humans have used salt to flavor and preserve foods for thousands of years.

Interestingly, sodium also plays an important role in several biological functions, including fluid balance, nerve conduction and muscle contraction (1, 2, 3).

For this reason, it's absolutely necessary to have salt, or sodium, in your diet.

However, many health professionals claim that too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease, although recent research has called this long-held belief into question (4).

Because of the potential dangers of consuming too much table salt, many people have turned to using pink Himalayan salt, believing it to be a healthier alternative.

Summary: Salt consists mostly of sodium chloride and helps regulate important processes in the body. The potentially harmful effects of too much salt have caused many people to start using pink Himalayan salt instead.

What Is Pink Himalayan Salt?

Pink Himalayan salt is a pink-colored salt extracted from the Khewra Salt Mine, which is located near the Himalayas in Pakistan.

The Khewra Salt Mine is one of the oldest and largest salt mines in the world.

The pink Himalayan salt harvested from this mine is believed to have been formed millions of years ago from the evaporation of ancient bodies of water.

The salt is hand-extracted and minimally processed to yield an unrefined product that's free of additives and thought to be much more natural than table salt.

Like table salt, pink Himalayan salt is mostly comprised of sodium chloride.

However, the natural harvesting process allows pink Himalayan salt to possess many other minerals and trace elements that are not found in regular table salt.

Some people estimate it may contain up to 84 different minerals and trace elements. In fact, it's these very minerals, especially iron, that give it its characteristic pink color.

Summary: Pink Himalayan salt is harvested by hand from the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan. It's minimally processed to provide a natural alternative to regular table salt.

How Is Pink Himalayan Salt Used?

Pink Himalayan salt has several dietary and non-dietary uses.

You Can Eat It or Cook on It

In general, you can cook with pink Himalayan salt just like you would with regular table salt. Put it in sauces and marinades or add it to your food at the dinner table.

Some people even use pink Himalayan salt as a cooking surface. Large blocks of the salt can be purchased and used to grill, sear and impart a salty flavor to meats and other foods.

Pink Himalayan salt can be purchased finely ground just like regular table salt, but it is not uncommon to also find coarse varieties sold in larger crystal sizes.

Considerations for Cooking

Whenever you're measuring any kind of salt by volume, it's important to consider how finely it's ground.

You may need to use larger quantities of coarse salt to match the saltiness of finely ground salt. This is because finely ground salt is packed closer together than coarse salt, so there's more of it in a particular volume.

For example, 1 teaspoon of any type of finely ground salt may contain around 2,300 mg of sodium, while 1 teaspoon of coarse salt will vary based on crystal size but could contain less than 2,000 mg of sodium.

Furthermore, pink Himalayan salt contains slightly less sodium chloride than regular table salt, which you may need to account for when cooking.

Current dietary guidelines in the U.S. recommend that most adults consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. This is equal to around 1 teaspoon (6 grams) of finely ground salt (5).

However, when you're using pink Himalayan salt, it's best to check the nutrition label, as sodium content can vary widely, depending on the brand.

Non-Dietary Uses

While pink Himalayan salt has several dietary uses, there are also a number of popular non-dietary uses.

Pink Himalayan salt is used in some bath salts, which claim to improve skin conditions and soothe sore muscles.

Salt lamps are also often made out of pink Himalayan salt and claimed to remove air pollutants. These lamps consist of large blocks of salt with an inner light source that heats the salt.

Additionally, spending time in man-made salt caves formed out of pink Himalayan salt is popular among people seeking to improve skin and respiratory problems.

But the research supporting these three non-dietary uses of pink Himalayan salt is relatively weak. More studies are needed to confirm these claims.

Summary: You can use pink Himalayan salt just like regular salt when you're cooking. Bath salts, salt lamps and salt caves are popular non-dietary uses of pink Himalayan salt.

Pink Himalayan Salt Contains More Minerals

Both table salt and pink Himalayan salt consist mostly of sodium chloride, but pink Himalayan salt has up to 84 other minerals and trace elements.

These include common minerals like potassium and calcium, as well as lesser-known minerals like strontium and molybdenum.

One study analyzed the mineral contents of various types of salts, including pink Himalayan salt and regular table salt (6).

Below is a comparison of well-known minerals found in a gram of the two salts:

As you can see, table salt may have more sodium, but pink Himalayan salt contains more calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron (6).

Nevertheless, the amounts of these minerals in pink Himalayan salt are very, very small.

They are found in such small quantities that it would take 3.7 pounds (1.7 kg) of pink Himalayan salt to obtain the recommended daily amount of potassium, for instance. Needless to say, that's an unrealistic amount of salt to consume.

For the most part, the extra minerals in pink Himalayan salt are found in such small quantities that they are unlikely to provide you with any health benefits whatsoever.

Summary: Pink Himalayan salt contains several minerals not found in regular salt. However, these minerals are found in very small quantities and unlikely to provide any health benefits.

Are the Health Claims True?

Despite the fact that pink Himalayan salt only contains tiny amounts of additional minerals, many people still claim that it can provide a number of health benefits.

The truth is, most of these claims do not have any research to support them.

Some of pink Himalayan salt's commonly promoted health claims include that it can:

• Improve respiratory diseases
• Balance your body's pH
• Reduce signs of aging
• Improve sleep quality
• Regulate blood sugar
• Increase libido

Some of the claims related to the non-dietary uses of pink Himalayan salt may be loosely based on research.

The use of salt caves as a treatment for various lung diseases has been evaluated in a few studies. The results suggest that there could be some benefit, but overall, more rigorous research is needed to investigate their effectiveness (7, 8, 9).

On the other hand, some of these health claims are actually just normal functions of sodium chloride in the body, so you'll get these benefits from any kind of salt.

For example, researchers have found that very low-salt diets may contribute to sleeping problems (10).

This suggests that an adequate amount of salt may be necessary for quality sleep. However, this was not studied in pink Himalayan salt and is likely a function of the sodium chloride in any salt.

Also, the minerals in pink Himalayan salt are not present in large enough quantities to have any effect on balancing the body's pH. Your lungs and kidneys tightly regulate your body's pH without the help of pink Himalayan salt.

Furthermore, blood sugar levels, aging and libido are all primarily controlled by factors other than the salt in your diet, and there are simply no scientific studies to suggest eating pink Himalayan salt can benefit any of these aspects of your health.

Similarly, there is no research comparing the health effects of pink Himalayan salt and regular table salt. If research did exist, it is unlikely that it would find any differences in their health effects.

Summary: Many health claims are often attached to pink Himalayan salt. However, most of these claims do not have research to support them.

The Bottom Line

Given all of the misguided health claims, it's easy to see why some people are confused about which type of salt to use.

But no studies have compared the health effects of pink Himalayan salt and regular table salt. If they were to, it's unlikely that they'd report any differences.

Nonetheless, if you'd like to avoid the additives in regular table salt, pink Himalayan salt is a great natural alternative. But don't expect to see the major health benefits that you might read about online.

And remember that table salt is a major dietary source of iodine, so if you're using pink Himalayan salt, you will need to get iodine from other foods like seaweed, dairy products and fish to help avoid iodine deficiency (11).

Finally, pink Himalayan salt is often much more expensive than regular salt. So if you don't mind the additives, using regular table salt should be just fine.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

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Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Niq Steele / Getty Images

By Sherry H-Y. Chou, Aarti Sarwal and Neha S. Dangayach

The patient in the case report (let's call him Tom) was 54 and in good health. For two days in May, he felt unwell and was too weak to get out of bed. When his family finally brought him to the hospital, doctors found that he had a fever and signs of a severe infection, or sepsis. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. In addition to symptoms of COVID-19, he was also too weak to move his legs.

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We are neurologists specializing in intensive care and leading studies related to neurological complications from COVID-19. Given the occurrence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in prior pandemics with other corona viruses like SARS and MERS, we are investigating a possible link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19 and tracking published reports to see if there is any link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19.

Some patients may not seek timely medical care for neurological symptoms like prolonged headache, vision loss and new muscle weakness due to fear of getting exposed to virus in the emergency setting. People need to know that medical facilities have taken full precautions to protect patients. Seeking timely medical evaluation for neurological symptoms can help treat many of these diseases.

What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function.

Without the myelin sheath, signals that go through a nerve are slowed or lost, which causes the nerve to malfunction.

To diagnose Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurologists perform a detailed neurological exam. Due to the nerve injury, patients often may have loss of reflexes on examination. Doctors often need to perform a lumbar puncture, otherwise known as spinal tap, to sample spinal fluid and look for signs of inflammation and abnormal antibodies.

Studies have shown that giving patients an infusion of antibodies derived from donated blood or plasma exchange – a process that cleans patients' blood of harmful antibodies - can speed up recovery. A very small subset of patients may need these therapies long-term.

The majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients improve within a few weeks and eventually can make a full recovery. However, some patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome have lingering symptoms including weakness and abnormal sensations in arms and/or legs; rarely patients may be bedridden or disabled long-term.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Pandemics

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, many neurologic specialists have been on the lookout for potentially serious nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Though Guillain-Barre Syndrome is rare, it is well known to emerge following bacterial infections, such as Campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning, and a multitude of viral infections including the flu virus, Zika virus and other coronaviruses.

Studies showed an increase in Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases following the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, suggesting a possible connection. The presumed cause for this link is that the body's own immune response to fight the infection turns on itself and attacks the peripheral nerves. This is called an "autoimmune" condition. When a pandemic affects as many people as our current COVID-19 crisis, even a rare complication can become a significant public health problem. That is especially true for one that causes neurological dysfunction where the recovery takes a long time and may be incomplete.

The first reports of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in COVID-19 pandemic originated from Italy, Spain and China, where the pandemic surged before the U.S. crisis.

Though there is clear clinical suspicion that COVID-19 can lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, many important questions remain. What are the chances that someone gets Guillain-Barre Syndrome during or following a COVID-19 infection? Does Guillain-Barre Syndrome happen more often in those who have been infected with COVID-19 compared to other types of infections, such as the flu?

The only way to get answers is through a prospective study where doctors perform systematic surveillance and collect data on a large group of patients. There are ongoing large research consortia hard at work to figure out answers to these questions.

Understanding the Association Between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barre Syndrome

While large research studies are underway, overall it appears that Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare but serious phenomenon possibly linked to COVID-19. Given that more than 10.7 million cases have been reported for COVID-19, there have been 10 reported cases of COVID-19 patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far – only two reported cases in the U.S., five in Italy, two cases in Iran and one from Wuhan, China.

It is certainly possible that there are other cases that have not been reported. The Global Consortium Study of Neurological Dysfunctions in COVID-19 is actively underway to find out how often neurological problems like Guillain-Barre Syndrome is seen in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Also, just because Guillain-Barre Syndrome occurs in a patient diagnosed with COVID-19, that does not imply that it was caused by the virus; this still may be a coincident occurrence. More research is needed to understand how the two events are related.

Due to the pandemic and infection-containment considerations, diagnostic tests, such as a nerve conduction study that used to be routine for patients with suspected Guillain-Barre Syndrome, are more difficult to do. In both U.S. cases, the initial diagnosis and treatment were all based on clinical examination by a neurological experts rather than any tests. Both patients survived but with significant residual weakness at the time these case reports came out, but that is not uncommon for Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients. The road to recovery may sometimes be long, but many patients can make a full recovery with time.

Though the reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far all have severe symptoms, this is not uncommon in a pandemic situation where the less sick patients may stay home and not present for medical care for fear of being exposed to the virus. This, plus the limited COVID-19 testing capability across the U.S., may skew our current detection of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases toward the sicker patients who have to go to a hospital. In general, the majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients do recover, given enough time. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19-related cases at this stage of the pandemic. We and colleagues around the world are working around the clock to find answers to these critical questions.

Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.

Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.

Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Reposted with permission from The Conversation.


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"There is no going back," Franco added. "Not an inch, not a step. We must only move forward from here."

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