Himalayan Pink Salt: Healthier or Hoax?
September 03, 2019 Lottie Bingham By Lottie Bingham

Himalayan Pink Salt: Healthier or Hoax?

Numerous sources tout the many and varied health benefits of Himalayan Pink Salt – but is there any clout to the claims?

A miracle mineral?

Himalayan Pink Salt is touted as being much more than just your bog-standard seasoning. Whether it is used for culinary, therapeutic or cosmetic purposes, the number and variety of properties attributed to Himalayan Pink Salt seem to be endless. With its reported ability to strengthen bones and even improve circulation, Himalayan Pink salt appears to be nothing less than a miracle mineral.1,2

Unfortunately, as is true of so many things in life, anything which sounds too good to be true usually is, and this rock salt (albeit, aesthetically pleasing), appears to be no exception.

Is Himalayan pink salt more nutritious?

Despite being considered ‘pure’, Himalayan salt’s defining pink colouration is actually down to the presence of a vast number of impurities contained within the crystals.3 Whilst these minerals do add to the seasoning’s aesthetic appeal, there is little scientific evidence to support the more miraculous claims regarding its health and healing properties. Although it is fair to say that the salt contains minerals essential for our wellbeing, whether Himalayan salt itself is a good source for these nutrients is somewhat less clear.

Consider, for example, zinc, an essential micronutrient found in Himalayan salt. Having a deficiency of zinc can lead to a host of symptoms including diarrhoea, alopecia, and reduced immunity. Whilst some might see that as evidence for Himalayan pink salt being a healthier alternative to your bog-standard seasoning, those facts alone are not enough to put Himalayan pink salt on the proverbial pedestal. First, we must look at the numbers…4

The recommended daily intake for zinc is 11mg for males and 8mg for females.8 Himalayan pink salt contains around just 2.38mg of zinc per kilogram of salt. Given the variety of foods which contain the mineral in much greater quantities (including beef, crab, beans, seeds and fortified breakfast cereals), there seem to be a few easier ways to hit your recommended dietary allowance (RDA) without having to consume 3kg salt per day! 3, 4, 5

What’s more, whilst many of these 80+ additional minerals are considered a necessary component of our diet, there are a few, including both lead and plutonium which, if consumed in too-greater quantity, would actually put our health at risk. Although safe in trace-quantities, it would be impossible to eat sufficient amounts of Himalayan pink salt to reap the benefits of certain constituent minerals, whilst avoiding the toxic impacts of others.3,6

Himalayan pink salt lacks iodine

With so many components to Himalayan salt, it’s hard to imagine that there is a mineral it doesn’t contain, but there is one essential nutrient which could be considered lacking. For those who opt for the cheaper, whiter crystals of conventional table salt, you might be surprised to learn that there is more to the seasoning than just sodium and chloride. In addition to a small amount of anti-caking agent, which prevents any moisture in the air interfering with the salt’s delicate crystal structure, many manufacturers will also add a small amount of iodine.7

Iodine is a dietary mineral required for the production of thyroid hormones. A deficiency, which typically presents itself as a swollen thyroid gland, known as a goitre, can have serious consequences including neurodevelopmental disorders. Although highly abundant, iodine is unevenly distributed across the globe, with soils close to the sea being rich in the mineral, but the earth’s crust – and the soils above it – being comparatively low. As a result, plants grown in land-locked areas, and the animals and humans livings off such plants, are typically low in iodine. 7,8

Despite the foods found on our shelves and plates today being sourced from a wide range of locations – thus containing a variety of minerals from a variety of soils - iodine deficiency is still surprisingly common. Globally, two billion individuals are consuming insufficient amounts of iodine every day, with over 50% of continental Europe being considered at least mildly deficient. 8

In the early 20th century many governments and health officials decided that, in an attempt to tackle the world’s most common endocrine problem, salt would be supplemented with iodine, with the minimum accepted level in order to stay healthy being touted as 30 mg of iodine per kilogram of salt. Whilst the exact amount added to table salts varies depending on the manufacturer, supplemented salts typically meet this minimum standard. In contrast, whilst iodine is one of the 84 claimed components of Himalayan pink salt, it is present in drastically lower quantities.7,9

Himalayan pink salt: Worth the hype?

Despite clocking in at around 20 times the price of conventional table salt, and arguably being somewhat more aesthetically pleasing on the plate, there is little evidence to suggest that Himalayan pink salt confers any additional benefit to your health over and above regular table salt.

Furthermore, given the recommendations by the World Health Organisation for nearly all populations across the globe to reduce their daily sodium intake, relying on salt–whether it be of the Himalayan variety, or otherwise—as a source of anything other than a touch of seasoning, is likely to do you more harm than good.10

What myths have you heard about Himalayan pink salt, and do you think they could be true – or is it just a pink placebo?

References

  1. Saltroom (2019). “Many Uses of Himalayan Salt” Accessed 5 July 2019.
  2. Himalayan Salt Company (2016). “Himalayan Salt for Bone Health” Accessed 5 July
  3. The Meadow (2019). “Minerals in Himalayan Pink Salt: Spectral Analysis” Accessed 6 July 2019
  4. Saper; Rash (2009). “Zinc: An Essential Micronutrient” Accessed 15 July 2019
  5. National Institutes of Health (2019). “Zinc. A Fact Sheet for Professionals” Accessed 15 July 2019
  6. Wani; Ara; Usmani (2015). “Lead toxicity: a review” Accessed 15 July 2019
  7. Mederios-Neto; Rubio (2016). “Iodine-Deficiency Disorders. Chapter 91 in Endocrinology: Adult and Paediatric (7th Edition)”. Accessed 20 July 2019
  8. Zimmermann (2010). “Symposium on ‘Geographical and geological influences on nutrition’. Iodine deficiency in industrialised countries” Accessed 20 July 2019
  9. Prete; Paragliola; Corsello (2015). “Iodine Supplementage: Usage “with a Grain of Salt”” Accessed 19 July 2019
  10. World Health Organisation (2016). “Salt Reduction” Accessed 10 July 2019