Federal Effort to Commandeer the Nation's Salt Shakers Is Based on Bad Science

Scientists are split over whether salt is a silent killer, or just a silent seasoning.

"Put down the salt shaker and back away from the table. And don't even think about going for the chips." Those are lines you may hear on a TV police drama of the future, when the federal drive to curb salt consumption reaches cruising speed.

Last year, the government's Institute of Medicine urged the Food and Drug Administration to "gradually step down the maximum amount of salt that can be added to foods, beverages, and meals." The FDA is listening. In September, it published a notice concerning issues "associated with the development of targets for sodium reduction in foods to promote reduction of excess sodium intake."

It is currently focusing on voluntary steps to "promote gradual, achievable and sustainable reduction of sodium intake over time." But if it doesn't get its way, it may go beyond gentle encouragement. "Nothing is off the table," a spokesperson declared last year.

Salt has always been prized as a culinary marvel—perking up flavors, masking bitter elements and preventing spoilage. Soup without salt is excellent for nourishing your garden, but unfit to eat. Any number of dishes taste better with a dash or two.

But many experts and public health organizations see salt as a killer, which in excess amounts causes high blood pressure and heart disease. They think we would all be better off eating less, and they want the government to make sure we do. Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, says that "we must treat sodium reduction as a critical public health priority."

But this clear certitude keeps getting clouded by confounding evidence. "For every study that suggests that salt is unhealthy, another does not," an article this year in Scientific American noted.

The Journal of the American Medical Association has reported that people who consume less salt are actually more likely to die of heart disease. Recently, a study in the American Journal of Hypertension found that reducing dietary sodium can cause a harmful response from the body. "I can't really see, if you look at the total evidence, that there is any reason to believe there is a net benefit of decreasing sodium intake in the general population," the chief researcher told Reuters.

Nor is it clear that third parties can get people to reduce their ingestion of sodium. We have been hearing for decades about the alleged hazards of a high-salt diet, and anyone looking for alternatives can easily find them. But today, Americans consume the same amount of salt as they did 50 years ago, when bacon, eggs and hash browns were regarded as a wholesome breakfast.

One survey of 33 countries found that despite vast differences in cuisine, people generally take in about 3,700 milligrams of sodium a day, well above what the FDA recommends, decade after decade.

How come? The theory is that we are all biologically predisposed to seek out that much and no more. The Salt Institute, which represents salt companies, makes the argument—self-serving but not implausible—that if it is reduced in food, people will up their calorie intake to satisfy their craving.

But even if we assume too much salt is a bad thing, federal regulators have no grounds to dictate how much our food may contain. Any consumers who want less sodium, after all, are free to spurn restaurant meals and grocery items laden with heavy doses.

Food companies don't use salt because they like it but because their customers do. If consumer preferences change—say, in response to incessant warnings from medical groups—food products will change as well.

Classifying excess sodium consumption as a "public health" danger mutilates a useful concept. Air pollution, West Nile virus, and E. coli are matters of public health because they inflict harm on broad groups of people against their will and often without their knowledge. No one, however, ingests salt without raising fork to mouth.

If I burn toxic waste in my yard, I may force you to inhale compounds that cause illness or death. If I make a meal of pretzels and Virginia ham, by contrast, I pose no hazard to anyone but myself. You can avoid this "public health" threat without the FDA barging into your kitchen.

Eating foods with salt is not a public decision but a private one. That's private, as in: Keep out.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    But even if we assume too much salt is a bad thing, federal regulators have no grounds to dictate how much our food may contain.

    WRONG. Salt may cross state lines. Salt is bad for you (that's our story and we're sticking to it) and your health care might cross state lines. Your body is 0.2 percent sodium, and you might cross state lines. You are a walking entity begging to be regulated.

  • Deregulate Artificial Borders||

    Eating foods hunted and gathered is not a public decision but a private one. That's private, as in: Keep your artificial privation property borders out.

    Officer, am I free to gambol about plain and forest?

    Gentle Reason readers, when the agricultural city-State FORCES people to give up Non-State food gathering and foraging — for which you daily apologize — there's no end to further food related regulation.

    If you only libertarians were honest about how the POLIS/POLICe originates and actually operates.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Shut up, Godesky.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    I love the link there, It will be impossible to rebuild civilization.

    Even on the surface, too funny! But a bit of further reading where the broken link (a software engineer who can't keep his links working?) was meant to go, Thesis #29. What absurdities do we find there? Here's the biggie: high-grade metallic ores gone. Really?

    Assuming we have exhausted them, that we dug them all out of the earth, and no new ore-bearing rock is being formed, where are they? If civilization or mankind is gone, where did they go? Did they go away? No. They are now on or near the surface where we used them. A new civilization starting from scratch, if strapped for traditionally-mined metals, would mine the cities and dumps for what they need.

    The poser's mentor is grasping at the same straws as those who believed eleventy years ago that there was nothing left to invent because they couldn't imagine anything new.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Shut up, Godesky.

  • Everything you say to me...||

    ...takes me one step further to the edge, and I'm about to break!

    Shut up when I'm talking to you! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up when I'm talking to you!

  • Mr. FIFY||

    The squirrels double-posted in your favor, Mulatto.

    Godesky is Grade-AA stoopid.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    No hop-ons.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    You would deny us a weapon to fight this scourge?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    "Hop-ons" only apply to the person replying - but not responding - to the top comment for the sole purpose of getting their commentary seen. Replying to that person is not a hop-on.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Ah, I see.

  • ||

    What must this fellow be on to make him able to keep this up, day after day, post after inane, repetitive post. Drugs? Just plain old psychotic monomania? Truly amazing.

  • Suki||

    You left out that the salt may have been exposed to fourth hand, once removed, tobacco smoke during production or transport! Not to mention HFCS issues.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Using salt = riding the trolley with Hitler!

  • Megyn Kelly||

    Even Ronald Reagan was against SALT.

  • Ice Nine||

    He was against salt, too?

  • Chris||

    When in doubt, go for interstate commerce.

  • ||

    Federal regulators may, as your post hints, regulate goods that pass in interstate commerce, or affect interstate commerce. However, they must have some ground for the regulation in the first place, and they don't. The federal government has no police powers to make regulations to protect the national health, safety, and welfare.

  • ||

    Lets not forget that the British used control of salt to control the rebellious population of India.....
    No one here would ever think of doing that. They would never begin a years-long, slow control of salt under the guise of 'for your own good'. They would never do that. Unthinkable......

  • Nancy Pelosi||

    But even if we assume too much salt is a bad thing, federal regulators have no grounds to dictate how much our food may contain.

    "Are you serious? Are you SERIOUS?!?"

  • Welfare = Constitutional||

    And unfit fat bodies can't help defend our nation.

  • Dept. of Homeland Security||

    Sodium Chloride (NaCl), better known as "table salt", consists of both sodium and chlorine, two dangerous chemicals that could be used by terrorists to attack the homeland. It is imperative that its production and sale are highly restricted.

  • Megyn Kelly||

    Iran may be developing a salt stockpile at this very moment.

  • No Wonder||

    China is expanding its navy.

  • Megyn Kelly||

    Terrorist nations may be able to use salt to produce materials for nuclear weapons.

  • Robert Spencer||

    This is in according to Islamic teaching. Salt is a key weapon in the demographic jihad that is currently occuring. According to the hadith of ibn Majah, Muhammad is reported to have said, "Salt is the master of your food. Allah sent down four blessings from the sky – fire, water, iron and salt." Muhammad's approval of salt is also supported by ahadith from ibn Malik, and Tabarani.

    Clearly, salt must be banned in the United States and what's left of free Europe. Anyone advocating for salt use is advocating for sharia.

  • Bill||

    +1

  • Matrix||

    Dihydrogen Monoxide (H2O), better known as "water", consists of both hydrogen and oxygen, two explosive gasses that could be used by terrorists to attack the homeland. It is imperative that its use and sale are highly restricted.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Also, sodium chloride has been found to be hydroscopic, which is to say it produces dihydrogen monoxide literally from thin air! And DHMO has been know to cause burns in gaseous form, its liquid form will stop human breathing breathing, and its solid for can lower a person's metabolism so much as to cause death in minutes! It has been found in new cancer tumors!

    And there's so much of it now in our cities and suburbs that nearly every locality in North America (and many around the world) is spending millions on special projects to get this stuff away from wherever it's found. Every river, stream and lake from Washington State to Virginia has this stuff oozing along in it!

    Just last July I saw a new pool of it in my neighbor's yard. The local government made him build a fence around it so it wouldn't kill any kids.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Yeah! Why work when you can just sit on your ass, draw three years' unemployment, and buy unsalted tofu with your EBT card?

  • Jozef||

    "If I make a meal of pretzels and Virginia ham, by contrast, I pose no hazard to anyone but myself."

    I assume that government critters would counter this with the motorcycle helmet argument: if you harm yourself, everybody suffers because people will have to pay for your extra medical costs. And in any case - what makes you still believe we're free to consume whatever we want, as long as we potentially harm only ourselves?

  • invisible furry hand||

    I'm convinced! Consider the brain damage caused to H&R folk when we engage with the trolls - smashing our heads against the keyboard, drinking paint stripper to dull the pain, etc. There's only one answer - ban H&R!

  • Hyper-individualism||

    The insane hyper-individualism of libertarianism is an reaction to the insane forced hierarchy we're living in.

    No wonder 1 out of 300 Americans attempt suicide each year.

    Which is the same rate of amputees in land mine infested Cambodia. 1 in 300.

    Capitalism's unintended consequences is both a psychological and physical minefield with definite consequences.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Shut up, Godesky.

  • ||

    The US hasn't had capitalism since the Sherman anti-trust act of 1890.

  • Libertarians = True-Believers||

    ...just like the True Believer Communists, who would say something like:

    The Soviet union didn't have Communism....[blah, blah, blah, blah, insert more leftist bullshit]....

    It's time to start judging the results by observation, just like you do with the Soviet Union. They had communism. Communism failed.

    We have capitalism. This is what capitalism is.

  • .||

    "We have capitalism. "

    No we don't.

    Saying "YES HUH!" like you did doesn't change that.

  • Saying nuh-huh like you did...||

    ...doesn't change the simple fact that we have capitalism.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Speaking of "insert leftist bullshit"... post some more of it, Godesky.

  • How is Godesky "leftist?"||

    If you don't agree with me...
    ...then you're a leftist.

    LOL

    What is this, free republic?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Uh, yeah... this is FreeRepublic.

    Dumbshit.

    PS Speaking of yourself in the third person is just fuckin' creepy, Godesky.

  • Suki||

    +1 Question!

  • Len||

    Longer than that. Consider the US was subsidizing steamboats until the 1820s, and then the railroads. Not to mention the tariffs.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Know who else hated individualism?

  • Capitalists hate individualism||

    You can tell by the uniforms and dress codes in their Soviets. I mean glorious capitalist corporations. As if there's much of a difference.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    The answer was "Hitler".

    Dumbshit.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    +1 internet for the ?.

  • ||

    I wonder how many of those suicides are the result of being unable to avoid the rantings of folks like you.

  • ||

    "if you harm yourself, everybody suffers because people will have to pay for your extra medical costs."

    Of course, no one will ask the next obvious question..."why is the government paying for anyone's medical costs?"

  • Externalities||

    Universal Pollution and Universal Rising Birth Defects lead to Universal Health Care.

  • Baal||

    There's an interesting issue with respect to the "force and fraud" responsibilities of government (preventing like they're supposed to, not perpetrating as the usually do.)

    I recently started a lower salt diet, and discovered how careful you have to be with reading labels. The case in point is "all natural" chicken breasts. It turns out that they can be labeled "all natural" and be injected with salt-water. Many people's reaction is to cry foul.

    My own opinion is that it reflects poorly on the company selling the product, but it's still none of the government's business. The market does in fact make the necessary information available (i.e., google). And if the information weren't already freely available, it's valuable enough that someone would be willing offer an appropriate service for a fee.

  • ||

    Like so much that comes out of the busybody faction, "All Natural" is almost completely free of meaning. Arsenic is perfectly natural. So is botulism. There are only a handful of elements that do not occur naturally on Earth, and they are mostly confined to the Physics Lab at Harvard.

  • Redefiler||

    So close, but not quite... But I wholeheartedly support your noble quest to rid the world of these stupid natural vs. unnatural distinctions. I suggest upsizing your lance...

    Humans are part of nature, so are their creations in natural physics laboratories.

    You'll also find that punctuating your statements with a firm bitch slap helps make the learning stick, its a natural teaching aid.

  • Bill||

    Some of that comes about due to negotiations between the companies and the regulating agency. (Can anyone say "Regulatory Capture")

    For example, they can say Zero trans fat if it has less than a defined amount PER SERVING. So there are products out there that have moderate amounts and can call it zero. And there are items that have a lot but due to their small serving size can fudge the numbers.

    If the FDA was looking out for the consumer and wanted accurate labeling, they would have them report things as mg. trans fat/g or as a percent by weight.

  • Zeb||

    My favorite example of that is "fat free" cooking sprays. Of course, they are made of nothing but fat. But they make the serving size small enough (1/3 second spray is one I have seen) that there is < 1 g. of fat so they can say 0 g. of fat.

  • Neptune||

    It turns out that they can be labeled "all natural" and be injected with salt-water.

    Meh. What could be more natural than salt-water?

  • Zeb||

    I think that a lot of people woudl assume that "all natural chicken breasts" means that the chicken is all natural, not all of the ingredients injected into the chicken.

  • ||

    According to that old Star Trek episode it's taking away the salt that kills.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

  • ||

    I love it!

    That episode scared the shit out of me when I was a kid. Had nightmares for weeks. Made such an impression I can actually remember where and when it was I saw it for the first time some 38 years ago.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    I'm old enough to have seen the entire run of original-flavor Trek episodes on black-and-white TV.

    Now... you kids get offa my lawn.

  • sarcasmic||

    Salt is necessary for life. Without it you die.

    Therefor intake must be strictly limited and controlled by your betters in government.

  • Air Supply||

    Air is necessary for life. Without it you die.

    Therefor air must be privatized and freely polluted by your betters in KOCH Industries.

  • sarcasmic||

    Air Supply = vomit

  • Bill||

    Google 3rd party effects or externalities. Many libertarians think there is room for some kind of pollution tax to account for this. Milton Friedman discussed the idea. Just have to make sure that the things being taxed (or you could use emission trading) are really harmful and not just the latest pet scheme by political parties to get elected. As with anything in the political arena, it can easily get FUBAR.

  • ||

    Gary Taubes wrote about the pseudo-science case against salt long before he wrote about the pseudo-science case against saturated fat.

    http://www.stat.berkeley.edu/u...../salt.html

  • Old Man With Candy||

    The Journal of the American Medical Association has reported that people who consume less salt are actually more likely to die of heart disease.

    Four quatloos to the first person who recognizes the misleading cause/effect here. Hint: who goes on low sodium diets?

  • ||

    Like people on a vegetarian diet also tend to exercise more, smoke less, etc.

    But the evidence against salt is weaker than such correlation.

    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medline.....18523.html

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    My hypertensive, overweight father-in-law went on a low sodium diet back in October. His health has been declining for about 4 years. Frankly, we hope he makes it through the holidays. Lower sodium intake at this point ain't gonna' do much.

  • ||

    That sucks. I'm guessing he's already on a smorgasbord of pharmaceuticals? Lowered sodium has nothing to do with that shit.

  • Number 2||

    "Eating foods with salt is not a public decision but a private one. That's private, as in: Keep out."

    But don't you understand, Mr. Chapman, that the Salt Companies have LIED to you by implying that their product is safe, and that they INTENTIONALLY MARKETED salt to you when you were a child -- thereby turning you into a lifelong salt addict? Don't you understand that pretzels and Virginia hams are merely Salt Delivery Devices?

    You have made no "private decision." You are a victim, and we must protect you!

  • Class Action Suit||

    Did someone say victim? You know I could get you or anyone you know a lot of money if you have been harmed by salt. Have you ever felt tired, dizzy, hungry, or sad? Call me!

  • ||

    1-800-BAD-SALT

  • ||

    It IS pretty ridiculous the amount of sodium that is in stuff. But it sure as hell isn't the government's job to do something about it.

  • Jason Godesky||

    Spoken like a hyper-individualist gambol-hater.

  • There is no "we"||

    Party at my mom's. Bring some lube.

  • mustard||

    Will Crisco work?

  • ||

    How, exactly, is any government regulation going help to get to that free-gamboling utopia you so greatly desire (and so richly deserve)?

  • ||

    One size fits all does not work with sodium...i have a tyhroid issue that gives me a Sodium deficiency.. Have they taken people like myself into condsideration...heck no...All this is is an attempt to pidgeon hole america, with Big Govment dictating your every function and action every day....No for me...

  • Mr. Mark||

    Secession.

  • ||

    Well - I'm off to the local burger shop to eat some nasty beef and some fat-laden fries. I think I'll add a few extra shakes of salt. I'm trying to commit suicide to get away from the ranting of fools like the poster above. (Which one? Good question.)

    I'll leave you with these inspiring words from Joan Didion:

    "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up."

  • ||

    "If I make a meal of pretzels and Virginia ham, by contrast, I pose no hazard to anyone but myself."

    That is only true if the GOVERNMENT does not have to spend money on your hypertension/heart attack through Medicare or Medicaid.

  • ||

    Nice expansion of the concept "hazard".

  • first||

    Muriel is an effortlessly sexy, natural beauty who hails from Argentina.

    With her calm and easy going personality Muriel makes the perfect Hegre model – well that and the fact that she simply oozes sensuality. And with her lush figure, long dark hair and Latina good looks it is easy to see why!

    Muriel works for a large pharmaceutical company but when she isn’t working she likes to have fun. And lots of it. A happy and carefree girl Muriel likes nothing better than relaxing with good friends and a nice cold beer!

    All of this and Muriel is bi-sexual too. Now there’s a thought that is too, too hot!

    Super sexy and fun to be with, Muriel is set to bring a lot of happiness to Hegre-Art members!

  • ||

    "How come? The theory is that we are all biologically predisposed to seek out that much and no more. The Salt Institute, which represents salt companies, makes the argument—self-serving but not implausible—that if it is reduced in food, people will up their calorie intake to satisfy their craving."

    Well, hell, if an institute with an interest in promoting sodium intake says something's true in the complete absence of evidence, we might as well go ahead and accept it.

    It's frustrating that even folks who accept evolution seem to have absolutely no idea how it works. There's no plausible mechanism by which people would seek out 3700 mg per day, no more and no less.

  • ||

    *Classifying excess sodium consumption as a "public health" danger mutilates a useful concept.*

    Ah, and therein you miss the point. Anything that can be claimed to affect others through our new national healthcare law's mandates will be argued a necessary centrist policy must be imposed and enforced upon the people.
    It's unreasonable and impractical to argue 'first principles' of libertarianism down the road when first principles of statism have created conditions that only worsen when those libertarian ideas are implemented. ie. illegal immigration and policies of open borders with the conditions of a 'welfare-for-all' state

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