top of page

Breakthrough research connects high salt diets to Type 2 diabetes

[Nov. 3, 2023: Staff Writer, The Brighter Side of News]

Frequent salt intake could be linked to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, according to a new study from Tulane University. (CREDIT: iStock Photos)

For decades, sugar has been the prime suspect in the dietary lineup of factors leading to Type 2 diabetes. Yet, a groundbreaking study by Tulane University, recently published in the esteemed Mayo Clinic Proceedings, points to an unexpected co-conspirator hiding in plain sight on our dining tables: salt.

This new research has stirred the pot, revealing that our proclivity for a salty addition to our meals may be paving a path towards the development of Type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition affecting millions worldwide.


The study's premise rested on evaluating the dietary habits of over 400,000 adults cataloged in the expansive UK Biobank. During a median follow-up period of nearly 12 years, researchers uncovered that more than 13,000 participants developed Type 2 diabetes.

The correlation between the frequency of salt usage and the onset of diabetes was startling; compared to those who sparingly reached for the saltshaker, the group who seasoned "sometimes," "usually," or "always" faced a 13%, 20%, and 39% increased risk, respectively.


Related Stories


Dr. Lu Qi, the lead author of the study and the HCA Regents Distinguished Chair and professor at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, asserts the novelty and significance of these findings. "We already know that limiting salt can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and hypertension, but this study shows for the first time that taking the saltshaker off the table can help prevent Type 2 diabetes as well," he noted.


The insidious impact of salt on our health extends beyond its well-documented effects on blood pressure and cardiovascular health. Dr. Qi and his team's research sheds light on an intriguing aspect of salt's influence—it may subtly coax us into consuming larger meal portions, inadvertently leading to obesity and inflammation, both of which are recognized precursors to Type 2 diabetes. The study's revelations about the relationship between habitual salt consumption and an increased body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio bolster this hypothesis.

Hazard ratios and 95% CIs for the frequency of adding salt to foods with the hazard of type 2 diabetes. aAdjusted for sex, age, race, Townsend deprivation index, education level, income, smoking, drinking, physical activity, and high cholesterol. bA total of 257,389 participants were available. cA total of 155,328 participants were available. DASH, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. (CREDIT: Mayo Clinic Proceedings)

Yet, the precise mechanisms through which salt intensifies the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes remain shrouded in mystery. Dr. Qi is keen on unraveling this enigma and suggests that a clinical trial with a controlled salt intake among participants may illuminate the underlying causes.


Despite the need for further inquiry, the implications of the Tulane study are clear and call for immediate action. "It's not a difficult change to make, but it could have a tremendous impact on your health," Dr. Qi advises. Discarding the saltshaker could be a simple yet powerful step towards thwarting the advance of Type 2 diabetes.

The association between the frequency of adding salt to foods and the risk of T2D. (CREDIT: Mayo Clinic Proceedings)

In the wake of this research, individuals at risk for Type 2 diabetes—and indeed, the broader population—might consider re-evaluating their culinary habits. Seeking out low-sodium alternatives to flavor food could be more than just a matter of taste—it may be a preventive strategy against a widespread and debilitating disease.


The shift away from salt does not necessitate a sacrifice of flavor. A world of herbs and spices awaits, offering rich and healthful complexity to dishes without the accompanying risk. This research underscores the importance of holistic dietary awareness and opens a new front in the fight against Type 2 diabetes.

Mediation Effect of Potential Mediators on the Association Between Frequency of Adding Salt to Food and Type 2 Diabetes. (CREDIT: Mayo Clinic Proceedings)

As the scientific community continues to probe the multifaceted dynamics of nutrition and disease, the Tulane University study stands as a testament to the ever-evolving understanding of how the components of our diets influence long-term health outcomes. It serves as a crucial reminder that sometimes the smallest change—a pinch less of salt—could lead to a significant leap in the preservation of our well-being.


While sugar has long been recognized as a dietary villain in the saga of Type 2 diabetes, salt's role has remained relatively under the radar. With this latest study, we are called to reassess the place of salt in our diets and recognize its potential as a silent contributor to a growing global health challenge. As research progresses, it is becoming increasingly evident that the choices we make at the dining table resonate far beyond the palate, echoing into the future of our health.

For more science news stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


Like these kind of feel good stories? Get the Brighter Side of News' newsletter.


Most Recent Stories

bottom of page