Lactated Ringer's solution and sodium chloride IV bags are seen in the operating room during a kidney transplant at Johns Hopkins Hospital June 26, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. ( AFP / BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI)

Doctors rubbish claim that drinking salt water cleanses the blood

Copyright AFP 2017-2021. All rights reserved.

A claim has been shared in multiple social media posts in South Korea that regularly drinking salt water cleanses the blood by purportedly providing the same benefits as intravenous saline drips. The posts are misleading; medical experts told AFP consuming copious amounts of salt is harmful and intravenous saline drips are not used to cleanse the blood, as the posts claim.

The claim was shared in this YouTube video posted on February 18, 2018 and viewed more than 170,000 times.  

Screenshot of the misleading claim. Captured July 14, 2021.

The Korean-language narration in the video translates in part as: "It is right that we drink salt water. Is this a strange claim? No.

"First, let’s look at Ringer’s solutions. Ringer’s solutions put salt water into a person's body and regenerate it by activating the organs and removing waste materials.

"[Consuming] salt regularly to make my body's blood clear in order to protect health is the correct choice for my body."

Ringer's solution refers to laboratory solutions of salts in water administered intravenously for medical purposes.

A similar claim was also shared in Facebook posts here, here, here and here

However, medical experts say the posts are misleading. 

Excessive salt harmful

"Drinking salt water or consuming too much sodium is not a healthy solution and can lead to various health problems like high blood pressure," Professor Oh Sang-woo, a family medicine and diet expert at Dongguk University Ilsan Hospital told AFP.

"South Koreans' diets already have too much salt, and there has been a sustained effort to reduce sodium levels in foods and prevent people from eating beyond the recommended amounts of sodium."

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends adults consume less than five grams, or just under a teaspoon, or salt per day

"Reducing salt intake has been identified as one of the most cost-effective measures countries can take to improve population health outcomes," the WHO says on its website.

"Key salt reduction measures will generate an extra year of healthy life for a cost that falls below the average annual income or gross domestic product per person."

Not for cleansing

Moreover, the salt in Ringer's solutions does not cleanse the blood, contrary to the claim in the misleading posts.

"The [salt] is there to control the concentration of sodium in the blood; it does not have any positive effects of its own upon the blood," Oh said.

"A lot of people in South Korea mistakenly believe that Ringer's solutions can give your body nutrients or energy, but it is merely an instrument used to prevent dehydration or restore blood levels that is given alongside other medicines."

 Ringer's solutions also contain "many other electrolytes" that are not found in a simple salt water mixture, Professor Kang Jae-heon, a family medicine doctor at Kangbuk Samsung Hospital, told AFP.

The solution is primarily used to "replenish fluids in the body and has no effects on the quality of blood," Kang said.

"But receiving Ringer's solution infusions and drinking salt water is essentially the same in that neither will improve blood quality."