DEBUNKED (PART 2): Using Salt to Optimize Mental & Physical Performance | Huberman Lab Podcast #63

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This video, part 2 of the video series on Huberman’s episode #63, will focus on a few of Huberman’s broad claims. Here is a rough outline of what will be discussed in this series, of which part 2 will be the beginning of the remainder (which will ultimately be 6 to 10 parts):

  1. First, I will introduce the podcast.
  2. Second, I will talk about the sodium paradox, which Huberman bases his claims about the healthfulness of sodium on. I will talk about the health paradoxes more generally. I will explain why they are not reliable pieces of evidence.
  3. Third, I will discuss the designs, strengths, and weaknesses of randomized controlled trials versus observational studies. I will show that randomized controlled trials indicate that these health paradoxes are fallacious. I will dive into the details of the sodium paradox studies in particular, and explain how Huberman gets things wrong here.
  4. Fourth, I will discuss the arguments made by Huberman that because animal models show anxiety on low-sodium diets, therefore humans could benefit from higher sodium in their diets. I will show that Huberman misuses these studies.
  5. Fifth, I will examine the claim made by Huberman that because Andy Galpin recommends a high electrolyte intake during physical activity, such an intake is justified at all times. I point out that Huberman provides no evidence that electrolyte replacement is required to optimize cognitive performance; and that Galpin’s claim pertains only to physical performance.
  6. Finally, I address Huberman’s discussion about the importance of sodium in neurons. I simply point out that the evidence indicates that Americans dramatically overconsume sodium, and again, I provide evidence that this is the case.

First, I will introduce this podcast. Specifically, I want to extend upon the connection between Dr. Huberman’s claims and those on the LMNT website. LMNT is one of Huberman’s main sponsors and provides 15% commission on each sale using Huberman’s link. Huberman recommends that people should buy and consume LMNT salt-containing products. Now this podcast by Huberman covers all of LMNT’s ingredients and only LMNT’s ingredients: sodium, potassium, and magnesium, suggesting that this Huberman podcast was made for the purpose of selling LMNT supplements, as I discussed in part 1. What’s more interesting however is that the pivotal study on which Huberman hangs his hat is precisely the same one as the one featured prominently on the LMNT website. This suggests that Huberman decided to directly make use of LMNT’s marketing materials.

Interestingly, there is a good deal of misinformation on the LMNT website, which is also reflected in the details given in Huberman’s podcast: Huberman makes the same interpretative errors. For example, the LMNT website misreports that the average American salt intake is just 2.3 grams daily. This is wrong on several levels. First, the 2.3 gram per day intake is the recommended intake of sodium for Americans. It is neither the average intake of salt, nor is it even the recommended intake of salt. It is the recommended intake of sodium. This recommended intake of salt is actually 5.75 grams of salt, not 2.3 grams of salt. Interestingly, Huberman at 54 minutes into his podcast repeats this error made by LMNT, claiming that the salt recommended by the guidelines is equal to half a teaspoon. This is incorrect. The basis of Huberman’s mistake is probably LMNT marketing materials. At 5.75 grams of salt, the recommended intake is more than na full teaspoon. And indeed, the amount of salt that Americans eat is actually 8.5 grams, or nearly 2 teaspoons, corresponding to about 3500 milligrams of sodium. It is not, as Huberman says, half a teaspoon.

Strikingly, however, this two teaspoons this is exactly how much Huberman recommends consuming on his episode, at 1 hour, 34 minutes, 37 seconds, i.e. the amount of salt already consumed by Americans. Despite this, Huberman claims that “for most people, a moderate increase in salt intake is not going to be detrimental provided that you consume enough fluids, in particular, water” at 1 hour, 2 minutes, 21 seconds.

Which is it? Should Americans consume more salt? Or are they consuming enough? Indeed, Huberman seems a little confused on this point. He starts the podcast by warning about high salt intakes repeatedly. Then he mentions that people in certain disease states benefit from higher salt intakes. Then he points out that Andy Galpin recommends additional salt for serious, exercising athletes. Then he extrapolates from that to say that everyone would benefit from more salt for cognition. There is a lot going on here. We discuss some of that here. We will discuss more in the future parts of this series.


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