Is It Time To End The War On Salt? In A Word, No.


Image credit Lloyd Alter

Life imitates Woody Allen's Sleeper once again....

Dr. Melik: This morning for breakfast he requested something called "wheat germ, organic honey and tiger's milk."
Dr. Aragon: [chuckling] Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.
Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or... hot fudge?
Dr. Aragon: Those were thought to be unhealthy... precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.
Dr. Melik: Incredible.

....as a new study determines that cutting back on salt doesn't actually cut the risk of heart attacks or strokes. Red wine and chocolate are already back on the menu, what's next? Personally, I am rather fond of salt; the photo is of a few that I often sprinkle on food. I should be jumping for joy; Scientific American writes:

This week a meta-analysis of seven studies involving a total of 6,250 subjects in the American Journal of Hypertension found no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure. In May European researchers publishing in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the less sodium that study subjects excreted in their urine--an excellent measure of prior consumption--the greater their risk was of dying from heart disease. These findings call into question the common wisdom that excess salt is bad for you, but the evidence linking salt to heart disease has always been tenuous.

Before continuing, a lot of people disagree with the premise of this report. Nature news writes:

Perhaps the study did not have look at enough patients to uncover a statistically significant effect. This possibility is raised by Francesco Cappuccio, who heads the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Nutrition at the University of Warwick, UK. "The only problem here is that they're not statistically significant and the reason for that is the meta-analysis is too small," Cappuccio says. He notes that low-salt diets did show a trend towards protecting against cardiovascular disease.

Furthermore, I would suggest that there is a direct link between salt and obesity. It makes food taste good and we eat more of it; salt and fat go together, like, um, bacon and bacon. When I sprinkle a few grains of specialty salt on my food I know what I am getting; when you buy fast or processed food you don't, and you eat more of it. Lots of it. That's why it is so hard to say no to a potato chip.

Everything in moderation. And with salt, most of us are not moderate.

More on Salt:
Salt Industry Pushes Back Against Controls and Limits

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Tags: Diet | Food Safety

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