But the one that takes the cake is from the late diet guru Aajonus Vonderplanitz: salt is like a bomb in your body, “blowing up cells.”
Here’s the full quote: “Salt is a terrible chemical, an explosive. Sodium, when isolated, is more explosive than nitroglycerine. The military gave General Electric two billion dollars over the last 60 years to make an explosive out of sodium. Couldn’t do it. One to 2% temperature change and it explodes. One block of pure sodium is worse than an atomic bomb and would level a city. They put salt on freshly slaughtered frog legs and they jumped all over the place for three minutes – spasmed the entire time. Salt is a dangerous chemical. It’s why the king and queen of England went into the business; it made slaves of people. Salt is salt no matter the source. It’s concentrated sodium. When it goes into your body it isolates it into pure sodium so it goes around clumping together and blowing up cells.”
Elsewhere, Aajonus states that “[you are n]ever getting a balanced diet if you are eating salt, any kind of salt. Because it will be separated and it will cause explosions and fractionations throughout your body.”
It’s hard to know where to start in analyzing these jumbles of contradictory statements. If salt is so explosive, “worse than an atomic bomb,” why did General Electric fail to make a bomb out of it? But even if General Electric succeeded in making a bomb out of salt, so what? You can make explosives out of magnesium and a powerful bomb out of phosphorus, but that does not mean that these elements are making explosions in the body, or that the body does not need them.
It seems that the acclaimed nutrition guru didn’t understand the difference between chemistry and biochemistry. And yet even now, years after his death, the Aajonus diet has a cult-like following. If salt blows up cells in the human body, how has the human race survived, since everybody eats salt, and salt is essential to life?
Aajonus also claims that “1 grain of salt kills 2 million red blood cells. . . when salt is taken as an isolate, it clumps together. This clumping has a very powerful magnetic charge which attaches to things like water and water-soluble vitamins. When this bonded salt attempts to interface with a red blood cell, the red blood cell tries to ‘eat’ the nutrients from the salt compound… but with concentrated/clumped salt, it cannot because the magnetic charge of the salt compound will extract the few ions that exist in the red blood cell. When the red blood cell loses these ions from the overly magnetizing salt, it ‘shrivels up and dies.’”
Hmmm. . . the blood of all mammals is salty. Hard to believe the body would concentrate a substance in the blood that causes the blood cells to shrivel up and die. But of course, salt in the body does not clump up, it remains dissolved as sodium and chloride atoms, which play a role in maintaining a different charge inside and outside the cell; sodium and chloride are also incorporated into a variety of enzymes and other substances in the body, many of which are essential for digestion. For example, we need chloride to make hydrochloric acid, for the digestion of meat—greatly needed in the case of Vonderplanitz’s high-meat diet. In fact, the lack of salt in his “primal diet” raises the specter of protein deficiency even when meat constitutes the primary food, especially as, according to Vonderplanitz, we should only eat meat raw–since raw meat is actually harder to digest than cooked meat.
Aajonus is not against animal fats, but fails to understand that fat digestion also requires salt. Sodium is involved in the manufacture of bile, which emulsifies fats so that they can be absorbed.
Then we have the business of twitching frog legs—a phenomenon discovered by the Italian Galvani–for which there are several explanations. Here’s one: After the frog’s death, unused adenosine triphosphate, the main source of energy in our body, remains in the muscles. The muscle only needs an activator, with which the negative charge will interact. The salt is this activator, releasing triphosphate and making frog legs twitch. Again, so what? Why should the twitching legs of dead frogs make us avoid salt?
Then there’s this statement “It’s why the king and queen of England went into the business; it made slaves of people.” Indeed, until very recent times, the control of salt served as a way of enslaving people because salt is essential for life—not because salt turned people into slaves.
An interesting article on the social history of salt, published in Scientific American, 1963, notes that in ancient times, where salt was plentiful, the society tended to be free, independent and democratic; where it was scarce, those who controlled the salt controlled the people. For example, along the shores of the Mediterranean and the North Sea, farmers and fishermen with access to plentiful salt enjoyed free societies. By contrast, areas of the world that had to import most of their salt or obtain it from small, isolated sources show a more autocratic pattern, a history of frequent conflict, monopoly and all-powerful rulers. In the ancient river valley civilizations of the Nile, Babylon, India, China, Mexico and Peru, the kings and priests maintained their rule and obtained their income through their monopoly of salt, on which the population depended for their survival.
More recently, the British exerted control in India by heavily taxing salt and jailing those Indians who dared to make salt themselves. In protest, Gandhi led a salt march that gained international attention. “Next to air and water, salt is perhaps the greatest necessity of life,” he said, believing a mass protest over the salt laws would help invigorate the cause of Indian independence. It’s estimated that the British arrested sixty thousand people including Gandhi himself during this Indian version of the Boston Tea Party, but eventually the colonizers signed a pact which led to the release of political prisoners and allowed the manufacture of salt by Indians in coastal areas. Indian independence followed a few years later.
In fact, it is fair to say that modern people enjoy one huge advantage over their ancestors: everybody in the world today has access to plentiful, inexpensive salt.
But Aajonus says that eating salt is like eating rocks. “We don’t eat rock, plants eat rock.” Fortunately, salt is not like rocks. If you put salt in water (or saliva), it will dissolve; if you put rocks in water, they remain as rocks.
Aajonus does acknowledge that we need sodium, which we can get from vegetables like tomatoes, avocados and celery, which he says “doesn’t cause these problems because it’s pre-complexed in a natural package. Celery is concentrated with sodium that helps remove excess sodium stored as rock salt. Sodium in food is among the smallest nutrients but sodium in salt is among the largest nutrient.” Sigh. Sodium is sodium—when dissolved in water or separated from food during digestion, the atoms are the same size, whether they come from salt or celery.
As I have pointed out in an earlier blog, you have to consume about 17 cups of celery juice to obtain your daily requirement for sodium; and celery juice won’t give you chloride, which you need for digesting meat, producing bile and many other processes in the body. What happens long-term when you don’t get enough salt? You may lack energy and muscle strength, because sodium is essential for the production of ATP in the mitochondria. You may feel depressed and lack motivation, because salt is involved in the production of dopamine. You many experience low sex drive, because sodium is involved in the production of testosterone; you may get sick frequently because chloride is a critical component of the immune system.
Even conventional spokespersons note that low salt diets can contribute to heart disease, especially heart failure, and increased insulin resistance, leading to type-2 diabetes. Then there is hyponatremia, a condition characterized by low levels of sodium in the blood. “Its symptoms are similar to those caused by dehydration. In severe cases, the brain may swell, which can lead to headaches, seizures, coma, and even death.” Aajonus doesn’t mention these deadly consequences of blind adherence to his diet.
A friend of ours recently collapsed and ended up in the hospital after following a doctor-recommended low-salt diet. He had dangerously low levels of sodium in the blood and required enteral feeding over three days to carefully raise the sodium levels. (It’s dangerous to raise the serum salt levels too quickly.) A three-day hospital say can cost tens of thousands of dollars. . . fortunately, he had insurance. You don’t want this to happen to you: please eat salt.
Learn the characteristics of healthy traditional diets from the Weston A. Price Foundation at westonaprice.org.