Sodium - Benefits And Functions
Sodium is an essential mineral. The human body contains 0.15% sodium 1. In a 70 kg individual, that amounts to 105 g of sodium. 95% of sodium is found in the extracellular fluid (fluid outside the cells, such as blood plasma, tissue fluid, and lymph fluid) 2. The remaining 5% is located within the cells.
In table salt, sodium is combined with chloride (sodium chloride).
The body requires sodium for maintaining blood pressure and blood volume. Sodium is the determining factor for the volume of body fluids such as extracellular fluid (fluid outside the cells) 3. It contributes to the regulation of water balance. Additionally, this mineral is needed as an electrolyte for nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and maintaining a balanced acid-base equilibrium.
In the body, sodium is not evenly distributed. This is due to the concentration gradient between the intracellular and extracellular spaces (membrane potential) maintained by the sodium-potassium pump. Outside the cells, the concentrations of sodium are significantly higher than those inside the cell. Inside the cell, potassium concentrations are higher. This concentration gradient allows the cells to remain excitable, enabling muscle contractions, nerve impulse transmission, and heart functions, among others.
Sodium-dependent transport proteins (SVCT1 and SVCT2) are required for the transport of ascorbate (vitamin C) into the cells 4.
Sodium Regulation in the Body
Through a series of bodily mechanisms, systems, and hormones, the sodium balance in the body is regulated. These include the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone hormone system, the sympathetic nervous system, atrial natriuretic peptide, the kallikrein-kinin system, various intrarenal mechanisms, and other factors that regulate kidney and bone marrow blood flow. 6.
The hormone aldosterone, which is produced in the adrenal glands, controls the sodium level. Aldosterone signals the kidneys to retain more sodium in the body. On the other hand, peptide hormones inhibit the production of aldosterone, leading to the excretion of more sodium.
Reduced sodium intake associated with lower risk of headaches
Study findings indicate that reduced sodium intake can be significantly associated with a lower risk of headaches. 7. According to scientists, reduced sodium intake offers a novel approach to prevent headaches.
Are there any considerations for vegans?
A vegan diet is characterized by a lower sodium intake compared to other dietary forms, which brings numerous health benefits (including normal blood pressure) 8 9. This can be attributed to the fact that vegans consume fewer processed foods that contain high amounts of salt.
The sodium requirement can be easily met with plant-based foods.