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Old 08 November 2013, 06:39 PM
dewey dewey is offline
 
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Default Four tablespoons of salt will kill you?

I just heard someone at work claim that eating 4 tablespoons of salt all at once will cause you to die within 20 minutes. I smiled and went to my computer.

Does anyone know if this is true and why?

Dwight
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  #2  
Old 08 November 2013, 07:41 PM
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Esprise Me Esprise Me is offline
 
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Sounds like a variant on the cinnamon/saltine challenge. The former is dangerous; the latter, as far as I know, is not. I would not expect salt to be as dangerous as cinnamon, because grains of salt are much bigger than specks of ground cinnamon, so there's less of a chance of inhaling them. I do expect, however, that trying to swallow four tablespoons of salt would be extremely unpleasant, bordering on impossible.
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Old 08 November 2013, 07:44 PM
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A Turtle Named Mack A Turtle Named Mack is offline
 
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Well, I could understand a very severe disruption of electrolyte balance causing very bad things to happen. And basically with regular salt, you are getting a LOT of sodium ions without balancing potassium ions (those are the two that mediate our nerve interactions).

A typical adult without special needs (less if you are HBP already, more if you sweat a lot) should get about 2300 mg of sodium a day. This is about a teaspoon. Since there are three teaspoons in a tablespoon, 4 tablespoons is 12 days sodium supply.

But that does not mean that we exceed tolerance with that much sodium. The sodium would be distributed through a much larger quantity of substances as it is taken up by the body. People tend to get a lot more sodium than that daily, usually without negative consequences, because the body has redundant systems to control the amounts of different substances it uses. Still I would not rule out adverse impact from that much salt in a single dose. Compare to acetominophen: you could take a regular dose of it 6 times a day, every four hours, for quite a while and have no adverse effects, but if you took just 12 tablets at once you are on the verge of the toxic dose. Normally when we get large quantities of salt all at once, we have it diluted: in the meat we eat, the soup it is in, the beer or whatever we drink as we eat salty stuff. A concentrated dose of something that readily transits the digestive walls can be a real concern. It is not something worth testing.
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Old 08 November 2013, 07:44 PM
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I imagine enough salt would kill you if you didn't drink enough water to be able to get rid of the excess. (People die from drinking salt water when no fresh water is available). But I suspect that it would make you very thirsty, and as long as you drank more non-salty water you'd be OK.

Looking it up, the LD50 of table salt in rats is 3000 mg/kg. 3000 mg of salt is about half a teaspoon. Three teaspoons to a tablespoon, so four tablespoons of salt is about 72,000 mg. So that corresponds to an LD50 for a 24 kg individual. (Assuming all my math is right, and that rat LD50 has relevance to humans here.)
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Old 08 November 2013, 10:37 PM
KirkMcD KirkMcD is offline
 
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It depends on your weight, but yes it could kill you.
http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013...could-kill-you
Quote:
A salt dose ranging from 0.75 grams to 3 grams per kilogram of body weight can kill someone. A tablespoon of salt weighs about 15 grams, in case you're wondering.
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Old 08 November 2013, 10:53 PM
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Interesting. The difference between .75g and 3g per kg of body weight is pretty substantial; if I've done my math right, that means that, given the lower estimate, a person as large as 176 lbs. could be killed by 4 tbsp of salt, while the higher estimate would mean that amount would only kill someone who weighed 44 lbs or less--I think I might have weighed that in kindergarten.
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Old 09 November 2013, 05:28 AM
crescent crescent is offline
 
 
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Wouldn't it depend on how you consumed it (with or without water), how hydrated you were to begin with, and whether or not you drank water afterwards?

I could see how a moderately dehydrated person could be n serious trouble if they consume four tablespoons of salt with little or no water to wash it down with or consume after.
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Old 09 November 2013, 12:15 PM
KirkMcD KirkMcD is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crescent View Post
and whether or not you drank water afterwards?
Drinking water afterwards could make it worse.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypernatremia
Quote:
However, overly rapid correction of hypernatremia is potentially very dangerous. The body (in particular the brain) adapts to the higher sodium concentration. Rapidly lowering the sodium concentration with free water, once this adaptation has occurred, causes water to flow into brain cells and causes them to swell. This can lead to cerebral edema, potentially resulting in seizures, permanent brain damage, or death
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Old 11 November 2013, 02:32 PM
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Thanks, everyone. It looks like my co-worker was right enough for me to not try to disprove it empirically.

dewey
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Old 11 November 2013, 03:16 PM
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A Turtle Named Mack A Turtle Named Mack is offline
 
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Yeah, I think we all agree this dose is unlikely to kill a person, but there is a significant difference in this and a spice, like cinnamon, in that the sodium of salt is very easily taken up by the blood and is a critical participant in neurological functioning, with the body dependent on having sodium in balance with other electrolytes, within the body's tolerance levels. Just like 'poisoning' yourself by drinking too much water, you can mess up the body's fluids by too much of certain substances, and salt is one of them.
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Old 11 July 2015, 02:25 AM
urbanlegendfanatic urbanlegendfanatic is offline
 
 
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Hmmm. Sounds like an offshoot of the urban legend of the little boy who died from eating too much salt from when I was growing up.
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Old 15 July 2015, 03:13 PM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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Large amounts of salt can be used as an emergency vomit inducing agent. I suspect that would be the result of eating four spoonfuls as well, and, as it leaves the body with the vomit, it's unlikely to do any serious harm.
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