Friday, March 12, 2010

Are you worth your weight in salt?

Now, they’re going too far.

What is happening to our freedom? Smoking bans, oil and fat bans, foie gras bans, snack food bans, soda bans (to name a few) and now a salt ban. Lawmakers are telling us what we can and can’t put in mouths. Yet, they will not bring the FDA out of the Dark Ages. They will not make the commitment to make our produce, meat, seafood, and poultry safe but they will dictate what we should and should not eat. They will not put pressure on “food manufacturers” (who process food so much that it is completly different from its natural state) relying on large amounts of chemicals and sodium (that’s right, salt) to make their products shelve stable as well as edible. They will not put the burden on companies who process salt and add more sodium (and chemicals) to natural salt but they are trying to deprive chefs of a crucial ingredient.

Here’s what scientists have found:

An eight-year study of a New York City hypertensive population stratified for sodium intake levels found those on low-salt diets had more than four times as many heart attacks as those on normal-sodium diets – the exact opposite of what the “salt hypothesis” would have predicted. (1995)

A ten-year follow-up study to the huge Scottish Heart Health Study found no improved health outcomes for those on low-salt diets. (1997)

An analysis of the health outcomes, over a twenty year period, from those in the massive US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES I) documented a 20% greater incidence of heart attacks among those on low-salt diets compared to normal-salt diets (1998)

A health outcomes study in Finland, reported to the American Heart Association that no health benefits could be identified and concluded “…our results do not support the recommendations for entire populations to reduce dietary sodium intake to prevent coronary heart disease.” (1998)

A Finnish study reported an increase in cardiovascular events for obese men (but not women or normal-weight individuals of either gender) – the article, however, failed to adjust for potassium intake levels which many researchers consider a key associated variable. (2001)

In September of 2002, the latest and highest-quality meta-analysis of clinical trials was published in the British Medical Journal confirming earlier meta-analyses' conclusions that significant salt reduction would lead to very small blood pressure changes in sensitive populations and no health benefits. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has also reviewed the evidence and concluded:
"There is insufficient evidence that, for the general population, reducing dietary sodium intake or increasing dietary intake of iron, beta-carotene, or other antioxidants results in improved health outcomes." (2002)

America’s pre-eminent scientific journal, Science, published by the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science, investigated the source of this confusion. The report in Science won author Gary Taubes the Science in Society Award from the National Association of Science Writers. He concluded:
“After interviews with some 80 researchers, clinicians, and administrators around the world, it is safe to say that if ever there were a controversy over the interpretation of scientific data, this is it….After decades of intensive research, the apparent benefits of avoiding salt have only diminished. This suggests that either the true benefit has now been revealed and is indeed small or that it is non-existent and researchers believing they have detected such benefits have been deluded by the confounding of other variables.”

So, is it because people can’t control themselves that we have to cook (and eat) inferior, poorly seasoned food?

You decide. I already have.

For more information, you can look up: The Cochrane Collaboration, Oxford University (UK) Centre for Evidence-based Medicine, the Health Information Research Unit (McMaster University), or the Canadian Centres for Health Evidence.

You can also visit the following websites:

To order a soon to be released book on all things salt, check out:

"Let's drink to the salt of the Earth" - M. Jagger/K. Richards