I was eating at a Japanese restaurant when I watched a man a table over consume a hunk of wasabi the size of a golden dollar in one ambitious mouthful. Within seconds he was red-faced and gagging, chugging water out of pitchers that the waitresses had raced to his rescue. After minutes of choking, the coughing fit finally subsided and everyone got back to their meals.
Well, wasabi is not the most dangerous ingredient on your sushi plate.
It started off like your standard teenage dare: "drink this quart of soy sauce." But this 19 year-old resident of Virginia will most likely think twice before blindly accepting another food challenge. A salt overdose might sound ridiculous, but it's a real risk! According to NPR, "a salt dose ranging from 0.75 grams to 3 grams per kilogram of body weight can kill someone."
Four hours after drinking the soy sauce and after being transported to the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, the patient's blood sodium level "was the highest ever seen in an adult who survived such intoxication without lasting neurological problems," NPR recorded. This patient had 2 grams of salt per kilogram in his system, putting him at huge risk.
At the hospital, the patient received six liters of IV in just half an hour in order "to dilute the sodium and encourage urination." Lucky the patient recovered without experiencing the threats of brain swelling and neurological complications.
We are always told that consuming too much salt may cause long-term problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, but it is less obvious that eating a large quantity of salt in a little time can lead to immediate life-threatening conditions.
This salt-scare adds new depth to the common advice "eat everything in moderation." You commonly hear about young men consuming large amounts of nontraditional foods for fraternity hazings and initiations — a jar of paté cat food, a few sticks of butter, a bottle of hot sauce or a jug of maple syrup. But what seems like a harmless challenge may not be risk-free. My advice: double-check the salt content and opt for something sweeter.