Chloride

Chloride is one of the two components that make up table salt, next to sodium. This means that it’s probably in most foods you have. Still, it wouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve never heard about it. Often hidden in sodium’s notorious shadow, chloride is less well studied on its own. We need it to stay healthy, but does it also play a part in the adverse health effects attributed to sodium? Let’s take a look at the facts about chloride.

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Best known for:Maintaining fluid balance; transporting nutrients to cells; supporting normal digestion.

Good sources: Table salt and most processed foods. Other good sources of chloride are seafood and some vegetables such as celery and lettuce.

Recommended dietary allowance (RDA): 800 mg/day for healthy adults. No tolerable upper intake level (UL) has been established for chloride alone.

Good to know: The isolated effects of high chloride intake on health are not well-known, as it is rarely consumed separately from sodium.

Chloride in Jake:
Jake Light and Original: 38-51% of AI
Jake Sports: 39-55% of AI
Vitaminbars: 25-26% of AI

What is chloride?

Chloride is an important electrolyteAn electrolyte is a substance that dissociates into charged particles, ions, in solution. This enables it to conduct electricity. and one of the major minerals in the body. It makes up 0.15% of your total body weight. For an average adult, that adds up to around 115 grams.

Most of the chloride is found in your blood and other extracellular fluids. Only about 15% is inside cells.

The levels of chloride in your blood are tightly controlled by the kidneys. They increase or decrease chloride excretion levels to compensate for short-term fluctuations in your chloride intake.

Health benefits of chloride

Together with sodium and potassium, chloride is responsible for fluid and acid-base (pH) balance in your body. As such, it’s crucial for normal cell functioning.

The key functions of chloride are:

  • Maintaining the fluid balance in your body.
  • Transporting nutrients across cell membranes: Chloride can move through cell membranes, which allows it to supply nutrients and remove waste products from cells.
  • Supporting normal digestion: Chloride is a component of hydrochloric acid, an important digestive fluid. Hydrochloric acid kills bacteria that enter your stomach and breaks down proteins to ease their digestion.

If you’re prone to acid reflux or suffer from bulimia, your teeth enamel and your gullet, or ‘food pipe’, can decay over time due to the frequent exposure to hydrochloric acid. That’s because hydrochloric acid is highly corrosive. After all, one of its industrial uses is to remove rust from iron and steel.

How much chloride do you need?

800 mg of chloride per day is the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) according to the EU Scientific Committee on Food.An assessment on chloride by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is also currently underway, with expected publication in 2019.

Chloride in foods

The most common and abundant source of chloride is sodium chloride, or ‘table salt’, which is present in most processed foods. However, there are also plenty of foods that naturally contain chloride.

Here are some of the best sources of chloride:

FoodRDA (%)*Chloride (mg)
Prawns, boiled (120 g)319%2550
Salmon, canned (100 g)110%880
Lettuce, raw (100 g)31%250
Celery, raw (50 g)23%180
Tomato, raw (120 g)6%50

* Based on the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for healthy adults (800 mg/day), according to the EU Scientific Committee on Food. 

What if you’re not getting enough chloride?

Chloride deficiency is very rare. Especially with a Western diet that includes processed foods, you are highly unlikely to obtain less chloride than you need.

However, it’s still possible to become chloride deficient as a result of excessive body fluid loss, such as sweating, chronic diarrhoea and vomiting.

Though rare, chloride deficiency can have serious consequences ranging from muscle weakness and loss of appetite to alkalosisAlkalosis is a form of acid-base imbalance in which there are too many bases in your body., which can be life-threatening.

Ever wondered what ‘sports drinks’ do? One of their main functions is to restore the electrolytes you’ve lost while sweating. When you sweat, you don’t just lose water. You also lose sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium and calcium. You need all of these electrolytes in place to avoid muscle cramps and fatigue. That’s where sports drinks come in – they provide you with electrolytes (and a good load of sugar).

How much chloride is too much?

Together with sodium, chloride is a component of table salt. This means that both are often consumed together. Therefore, a high intake of chloride is usually accompanied by a high intake of sodium, making the individual effects of chloride overconsumption on health difficult to isolate.

Excessive consumption of both chloride and sodium may be associated with the same negative health consequences, including high blood pressure and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. The available evidence suggests that these adverse effects are usually observed only in the presence of both chloride and sodium.

Due to the insufficient data available, a tolerable upper intake level (UL) has not been established for chloride alone. Regarding overall salt consumption, the World Health Organization advises not to exceed an intake of 5 grams of table salt per day. That’s just under a teaspoonful.

Take-aways

The three things to remember about chloride are:

  • Chloride maintains the balance of fluids in your body and ensures the normal functioning of your cells and your digestion.
  • You can cover your daily needs of chloride through table salt or foods like prawns, celery and lettuce, which naturally contain chloride.
  • It’s currently unclear what too much chloride alone does to your health. However, many of the foods that contain chloride also contain sodium, which is known to be harmful in excessive amounts. To avoid the adverse health effects associated with high sodium intake, avoid having more than 5 grams of salt per day.