Low Sodium: Sacrificing Flavor for…Higher Cholesterol



Contrary to what the Food and Drug Administration might insist on having you believe, high-sodium diets may not be so bad for you afterall, a new meta-analysis finds. Reuters reports:

The review—which collated and analyzed the findings of 167 previous studies—found that while cutting down on salt reduced blood pressure in people who have normal or high blood pressure, it also caused increases in some hormones and other compounds that can adversely affect people's heart health.

"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," said Niels Graudal of Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, who led the review…

A separate Cochrane Library review conducted by British researchers and published in July found no evidence that small reductions in salt intake lowered the risk of developing heart disease or dying prematurely.

Specifically, the new analysis found that reducing sodium intake increases cholesterol levels by 2.5 percent and triglycerides by seven percent.

Earlier this year, Time reported on two other studies also challenging the convential anti-salt wisdom:

Reporting in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the researchers found that those with the highest levels of sodium in their urine (the most accurate way to measure how much salt a person consumes) were more than four times less likely to die from heart disease than those with the lowest intake of sodium. During the nearly eight years of follow up, the heart-related death rate was 0.8% among those with the highest sodium levels and 4% among those with the lowest levels.

And the second:

Although lowering dietary salt resulted in a small dip in blood pressure, the researchers found no strong evidence that it reduced rates of death in people with high or normal blood pressure.

There are caveats to each of these studies, including limited duration, racial makeup, and age ranges analyzed in the research. Each concludes that these results are not the final word on the matter. But they do show that current widely accepted opinions about salt deserve more scrutiny.

Those involved in steering policy recommendations, however, do not seem particularly open to debate:

"The question is not 'should' we reduce salt intake, but 'how'," said Graham MacGregor, a professor of cardiovascular medicine and chairman of the World Action on Salt campaign group, who said he strongly disagreed with Graudal's findings.

Franceso Cappuccio of the World Health Organization is apparently too busy promoting his cause to stop and consider the evidence, saying the study "should not distract our attention for implementing salt reduction policies at population level globally, as directed by national governments, the World Health Organization and the United Nations."

Salt warriors unwilling to even consider data contrary to their crusade are certainly cause for concern. The FDA currently doesn't place an upper limit on the amount of sodium in processed foods, but there is pressure to change that. If low sodium groupies continue to dismiss opposing evidence out of hand, you may have to kiss your double-pan fried noodles (7,900 mg sodium) goodbye.

Reason's Jacob Sullum and Katherine Mangu-Ward on stupid food ideas herehere, here, and here

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  1. So death by heart attack or death by kidney failure, your choice.

    1. “Fuck off, FDA” is my choice

      1. This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA.

        1. I bet there’s a regulation for that, too

    2. So, eating flavorful foods and having a low risk of dying from that, or eating bad tasting food and having roughly the same low risk as those consuming flavorful food.

      1. spices provide flavor also

    3. Is salt bad for your kidneys?

      You’re still more likely to die from cancer anyway.

      1. You’re still more likely to die from cancer death anyway.


        1. So Lemmy was onto something with “Killed BY Death”?

          1. Come on, Zeb. You can’t reference a tune without including the YouTube linky. Step your game up!

  2. I think the FDA is the Third Administration? that Rick Perry was trying to think of.

    If not, I sure could be.

    1. I = it for today.

      That is all

      1. you done gaffe’d!!!!!!!!

        1. That’s what happens when you try to think what Rick Perry was trying to think.

  3. There’s no need for proof when you have faith.

    1. There’s no need for proof when you have Selfless Public Servants? telling you so.

  4. The science is settled.

    1. If you mean lowering your salt intake by half (a herculean task) on average will lower your BP by 1.1/0.6 mmHg? Yes, it’s settled. Considering most people concerned with blood pressure need to lower it by 20 mmHg, 1 mmHg ain’t gonna make a dent.

    2. That’s what I thought.

      Every doctor I’ve discussed this with has told me that there is absolutely no reason why healthy people should reduce salt intake, and that only a few people – on the advice of their doctors – might benefit from lower levels of salt.

      That sounds pretty settled to me.

  5. There are caveats to each of these studies…

    Yeah, same with the other studies purporting to show sodium is dangerous. Hence, the government shouldn’t be trying to jump on any bandwagons and enforce an unclear understanding of any imagined health risks.

    1. C’mon dude, if it turns out the Feds were wrong, they’ll just own up to it and repeal the regulations, right?

      1. Good point.

        It’s good to know that we have intelligent, caring people looking out for us in Washington, D.C.

  6. More evidence that you really don’t need to pay attention to whatever is the latest food panic. Coffee’s bad for you! Coffee’s good for you! Alcohol is bad for you! Alcohol is good for you!

    It’s enough to give you whiplash. But it seems like what/how/why we eat is as endlessly fascinating to the media as what/how/why we fuck, so we’ll never stop hearing about it. And nannies the world over will never stop trying to regulate it (or failing that, just concern troll about it).

    1. But it seems like what/how/why we eat is as endlessly fascinating to the media as what/how/why we fuck

      That why I combine the two. And the media loves me for it.


      1. What kind of pie, though? For this to be an Atlantic-style trend piece we need to know if it is only artisanally baked, locally sourced pies made from seasonal organic ingredients. For this to be a hand-wringing Think Of The Children piece, we need a study of some kind re. the detrimental consequences of piefucking and ideally, approximately one additional anecdote besides you of someone who fucked pies and then something bad happened!

        1. artisanally baked, locally sourced pies made from seasonal organic ingredients

          I’ll be in my bunk.

          1. You’ll get crumbs in the bed. How unsanitary.

        2. one additional anecdote besides you of someone who fucked pies and then something bad happened

          One time in junior high, me and my buddies were hanging around in my basement… you know… fucking pies. So my friend Craig is fucking this sweet looking chicken pot pie. I mean he is really going at it. He’s fucking it like it was a hot apple pie. Anyway, some how a pea got stuck in his urethra. He went to the bathroom to try to piss it out. The back pressure was to great, and instead of dislodging the pea, he blew a hole in the side of his dick. It’s a fucked up world, man…

          1. I never thought of fucking a chicken pot pie. Wouldn’t it be better to just fuck a chicken wrapped in bread?

          2. Man that’s disturbing.

            Almost like something a certain someone else would’ve told us.

        3. Like a rainbow party, he fucks pies of various colors.

          1. BTW: My browse crashed while the above was posting and I was trying to read another reason page. H&R seems to be a monstrous memory hog, as it repeatedly causes browser freezes and crashes that don’t happen when I don’t have H&R pages open. Is there anything the admins can do about the extreme memory hogging that H&R does?

            1. Not only that, but it’s forever loading something. On my other computer I used to go thru great contortions sometimes to close the spigot and read pages offline before the browser crashed.

              1. Those somethings seem to be antisocial networking widgets. It’s gotten worse since the introduction of Google Minus.

        4. I assumed it was a cream pie, but I hear cherry pie is good too.

    2. I saw a sign in the foyer of an Elephant Bar that says “alcohol causes cancer”…i was stunned into silence.

      1. Which is why I prefer the Korova Milkbar, O my brother.

  7. The science is settled.


    The attitude?that sensory pleasures are a site of government?is settled.

    Science will do whatever it’s told, or the church will smack the telescope off its eye.

    1. ?that sensory pleasures are a site of government?

      OK, I have no clue what’s meant by that combination of words.
      Or can it mean ? thinks rulers have planted themselves in my taste buds?
      Nah, I have no clue what’s meant by that combination of words.

  8. no shit

    The Japanese eat twice as much sodium as we do and they’re the healthiest mother fuckers around

    It’s clearly not the fucking salt

    Salt AND a high-calorie diet? Maybe, but the salt itself? Clearly not

    Frankly, salt can be helpful because I highly suspect it to help aid feeling of satiety more quickly when eating

    1. Per capita sugar intake, specifically fructose intake, tracks very well with insulin resistance, high blood pressure, obesity, decreased HDL, elevated triglycerides, hyperuricemia, fatty liver liver disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and acanthosis nigricans. It suppresses the leptin response (satiety) and must be processed by the liver like alcohol.

  9. What ticks me off is all the unsalted popcorn I’ve eaten over the last few years.

    1. Hot sauce, Aresen. Hot sauce is what popcorn was made for. I think it’s even better than butter and salt, and I don’t have any problem eating either butter or salt.

      1. Oh you Canadians. 😉

        1. db, are Kiwis really ones to talk? Don’t you put Marmite* on your popcorn or something?

          *I just Googled Marmite to remind myself of how weird it is, and realized it’s actually kind of related to Bovril, which, do you remember that? My mum cooked with the cubes but I never see it anymore. There, that oughta freak the Americans out sufficiently.

          1. I’m not eating that fucking shit, man. You can’t even find out what it is. Two minutes of googling and all that I can say is that Marmite is a yeast byproduct vitamin b spread. What!!?

            I’d rather eat monkey brains because at least I know what monkey brains are.

            And, yes; monkey brains are high in protein as well (don’t know about the vitamin b though).

            1. Nah, we stick to the salt and butter.

              Marmite (never Vegemite) is basically centrifuged brewers yeast (you take the cytoplasm as the extract) with a bit of caramel added as a flavour. It’s delicious! 🙂

              1. Single Cell Protein baby!

              2. Vegemite is too salty. Back on topic: SODIUM OH NOES.

                db, whatcha listening to these days? I need a new influx of techno in my world.

                1. Aha, check out this track:


                  This one is perfect after a long day of administering Voight-Kampf tests:


                  1. A couple of old classics:



                    1. Some Motorbass:


                      And a bit of classic Escape from New York score John Carpenter:


                    2. Thank you! My boring afternoon work tasks now feel all space-agey and cinematic.

              3. i agree about marmite. great stuff

              4. I was on a tour in New Zealand a few years ago, when an Australian and a Briton got into a lively discussion about the relative virtues of Vegemite versus Marmite.

                Afterwards, at the hostel, a Japanese girl asked me about that argument because she was somewhat confused. She had difficulty understanding why they each bragged on their local version of yeast product spread. She was searching for words, and asked “Don’t they realize …?” and I finished “that they both compare unfavorably to shit?”

                She nodded her head.

            2. It goes really well with poached eggs when spread on toast with butter.

              1. Hot sauce = salty
                Soy sauce = salty
                No topping is safe. I think even garlic salt is salty.

                1. Mmm, garlic salt and maybe some kind of mashed anchovie preparation would be worth trying on popcorn.

                2. Lie.

                  I use all three of those things with salt and my food doesn’t taste salty!

                  I would eat centrifuged marmut with salt on toast if it were available. Or centrifuged marmut nuggets dipped in ranch flavored cytoplasm…mmmm ranch

                  Fried cheesy buffalo ranch chipotle stuffed marmut-plasm with cetrifuged bacon honey mustard dipping sauce would be good too.

                  1. Old bay on popcorn is very good.

                  2. cap l, you have a bright future creating new menu items for Applebee’s, Chili’s and the like (my term for these types is ‘places with flair’ a la Office Space).

                    1. Last time I ate at one of those places it was actually pretty good.

                      Me and my gf went to a local place that has really good food and like 150 beers on tap after a long day of moving in the summer heat without food. Sat down, looked at the menus, had a couple of beers and then ordered our food. Within a couple of minutes the fucking place is filled with obnoxious screaming yinzers. We had forgotten that there was a steelers pre-season game on that day…fuck. After waiting for our food surrounded by these loud, malodorous troglodytes for two goddamn hours we left.

                      You see, in this fucking city you can’t do shit if their’s a game on, any place that serves alcohol will be crowded with fucking yinzers. A lot of them don’t know shit about football, they just like to be around their own kind loudly crying out their blubber muffled mating calls of WOOOO!.

                      So, I drove us about 10 miles out side of town to the local shop-o-plex-orama-place and we ate at TGIFs. They had Guinness on tap and shit with cheese melted on it so I was happy.

                  3. You misspelled:
                    Of course your food doesn’t taste salty after that, you burned your tongue off.

          2. You furriners eat some weird stuff.

      2. Soy sauce is pretty good too.

    2. Popcorn without salt or butter is like sex without a bed or a woman.
      No comfort, no pleasure, and nothing accomplished.
      Just a mess.

  10. A separate Cochrane Library review conducted by British researchers and published in July found no evidence that small reductions in salt intake lowered the risk of developing heart disease or dying prematurely.

    SBM covered the Cochrane review and the coverage thereof in July:

    The true finding from the Cochrane review is that dietary interventions to reduce salt intake are largely ineffective at reducing salt consumption. Salt’s impact on cardiovascular events is less clear than its effects on blood pressure. And the long-term benefits of population-level interventions to reduce dietary salt consumption are not yet well established. Until the data are more clear, you can find the data to support whatever narrative you believe. If you want to demonize salt and ignore other factors that contribute to poor cardiovascular outcomes, you can do that. And if you believe that interventions to reduce salt consumption are misguided and unwarranted, and symptomatic of an overreaching nanny state, then you can find data to support that position, too.

    1. That’s good to know. I am going to choose to believe the narrative that salt intake is not bad for you. Because salt is delicious and makes everything taste good. Definitely my favorite taste bud (or perhaps tied with umami).

  11. In 20 years are we going to see “huge busts” of illicit salt manufacturers and distributors?

    “Today, the herpaderp police department interdicted over 1500 kilos of high-grade salt, and arrested 8 people connected with trafficking the dangerous chemicals into herpaderpville, where it continues to endanger children and plague communities, especially the blax and the poor.”

      1. I guess they’ll bust me for evaporating sea salt in my solar oven!

  12. Salt me up, bitchez

  13. Sodium kept Tutankhamun looking better longer than cosmetic surgery has Joan Rivers. So how bad can it be for you?

    1. Don’t give Joan ideas – she’s freaky enough.

    1. Does Cracked pay for content? Because not only is this poorly written, it is whiny and doesn’t make any sense.

      And why does the post after mine give the time in Arabic?

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  15. There’s a lot of research on possible risk of stomach cancer from high-sodium diets, but it doesn’t get much publicity.

    “Most published epidemiological studies provide positive evidence for an association between salt or salted food consumption and stomach cancer risk, which was also supported by experimental studies[14,87,94,97]. The limitations of salt assessment in epidemiological studies may have attenuated the true effect of salt intake on stomach cancer risk, or even biased the results away from the null, in the reviewed ecological, case-control, and cohort studies.”


  16. There is no – none – scientific basis for the hysteria of salt intake. I would truly love to see all the anti-salters put on a salt free diet and then see how long they last.

  17. There is a fomer U.S. FDA doc who has been writing for some time that salt is actually good for you. see http://healthjournalclub.com/low-salt-campaign/
    If you are doing something right, trust the health “authorities” to come in, screw it up and make all your food bland at the same time.

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