Salt Is Good For You?


Bloomberg will have to pry it from my cold dead potato chip crumb covered fingers.

The attack on sugary sodas is just the latest salvo in NYC Mayor and Nanny-in-Chief Michael Bloomberg's bland food assault. Two years ago, his target was salt—advocating a 25 percent cut in salt in packaged and restaurant foods to be implemented over the next five years. In Sunday's New York Times, health science reporter Gary Taubes has an excellent op/ed exposing how anti-salt campaigners ignore the accumulating scientific evidence that eating salt is not a huge public health problem. Taubes notes that even as far back as 1998 the evidence that current levels of salt consumption was unhealthful was equivocal at best. Now he reports: 

While, back then, the evidence merely failed to demonstrate that salt was harmful, the evidence from studies published over the past two years actually suggests that restricting how much salt we eat can increase our likelihood of dying prematurely. Put simply, the possibility has been raised that if we were to eat as little salt as the U.S.D.A. and the C.D.C. recommend, we'd be harming rather than helping ourselves….

The idea that eating less salt can worsen health outcomes may sound bizarre, but it also has biological plausibility and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, too. A 1972 paper in The New England Journal of Medicine reported that the less salt people ate, the higher their levels of a substance secreted by the kidneys, called renin, which set off a physiological cascade of events that seemed to end with an increased risk of heart disease. In this scenario: eat less salt, secrete more renin, get heart disease, die prematurely.

With nearly everyone focused on the supposed benefits of salt restriction, little research was done to look at the potential dangers. But four years ago, Italian researchers began publishing the results from a series of clinical trials, all of which reported that, among patients with heart failure, reducing salt consumption increased the risk of death.

Those trials have been followed by a slew of studies suggesting that reducing sodium to anything like what government policy refers to as a "safe upper limit" is likely to do more harm than good. These covered some 100,000 people in more than 30 countries and showed that salt consumption is remarkably stable among populations over time. In the United States, for instance, it has remained constant for the last 50 years, despite 40 years of the eat-less-salt message. The average salt intake in these populations — what could be called the normal salt intake — was one and a half teaspoons a day, almost 50 percent above what federal agencies consider a safe upper limit for healthy Americans under 50, and more than double what the policy advises for those who aren't so young or healthy. This consistency, between populations and over time, suggests that how much salt we eat is determined by physiological demands, not diet choices.

One could still argue that all these people should reduce their salt intake to prevent hypertension, except for the fact that four of these studies — involving Type 1 diabetics, Type 2 diabetics, healthy Europeans and patients with chronic heart failure — reported that the people eating salt at the lower limit of normal were more likely to have heart disease than those eating smack in the middle of the normal range. Effectively what the 1972 paper would have predicted.

Proponents of the eat-less-salt campaign tend to deal with this contradictory evidence by implying that anyone raising it is a shill for the food industry and doesn't care about saving lives. An N.I.H. administrator told me back in 1998 that to publicly question the science on salt was to play into the hands of the industry. "As long as there are things in the media that say the salt controversy continues," he said, "they win."

How dare Taubes challenge a "scientific consensus"! 

Go here to read the whole op/ed. Go here for links to previous reporting by Reason on the salt assault. 

NEXT: The New York Bureau of Food Discipline Announces New Guidelines for Pretzels, Hot Dogs...

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  1. Reason is a shill for Big Salt.

      1. Yes, please

        1. Stop your lamentable oppression of that poor girl via lustful gaze! Sexist pig!

          1. Fucking microaggressors.

      2. I would tear dat salty ass up.

        Jus’ sayin’

  2. Anecdote warning:

    I like salt, lots of it and I always have. This is interesting because my grandfather was from Finland where the males have a very high incidence of death by heart disaese ( you can look it up, this is an anecdote afterall).
    Growing up in a Finnish-American family the old farts always said that I had that Finnish taste for salt.

    This makes me wonder if the taste for salt has maybe genetically selected in Finns to offset the tendency to have heart disease and kick early.

    1. Yeah, probably just a requirement because Pickled Herring tastes like shit and loading it up with 4 pounds of salt is the only way to “acquire” a taste for it :-).

      1. Pickled herring is fucking great. Are you sure you aren’t thinking of lutefisk?

        1. Ugh don’t even mention fermented fish. Pickled Herring is bad enough, I don’t even want to think of lutefisk.

          1. Q: What’s the difference between lutefisk and boogers?

            A: 5-year olds will eat boogers.


      2. That’s those fooking Norwegions with that shit.

    2. I think it s probably mostly because salt makes things taste good.

      I’m the same, I love salt. So stories like this are very gratifying.

      It just doesn’t make sense that there would be one “right” amount of salt to consume. Salt is necessary and gets used up. Someone who sweats a lot, for example, is going to need to eat more salt. It begins to appear that, for most people, eating less salt has more potential dangers than eating more.

      1. This is addressed # 01:50, Zebulon.

        For all intents and purposes, you are correct. I’m not entirely convinced excessive NaCl intake is the etiology, or root cause, of essential hypertension (HTN), which basically means, we know you have chronic elevated BP, but we don’t know exactly why. IMMO, family HX is the best predictor of this condition, and race (ethnicity, which is a necessary component in DX/DDX, Ron, so you might want to hold off on expunging ethnic classifications), and excessive NaCl is to be properly managed in patients with this condition. Patients with kidney disease, particularly later and end stage ESRD, should also avoid excessive salt intake.

        Reduced NaCl should probably not be a factor with Type I and II diabetics, unless improperly managed BSL’s have caused damage to the kidneys and also cardiac tissue, especially if chronic heart disease and congestive heart failure is also present either concomitantly or as a discrete DX.

        Salt isn’t “bad” for you absent these conditions.

    3. All I know is that “a serving” of olives is at least 1/4lb. Plus the feta, and some form of salted meat.

      1. Do you live by yourself, or has your family just ceded you a commode?

  3. The only people who should avoid salt are wrestlers while they’re cutting weight. And, I dunno, I guess the old fucks who are about to die anyway, but who really cares about them?

    1. And, I dunno, I guess the old fucks who are about to die anyway

      Shouldn’t that be the best time to ignore dietary advice?

      1. Free morphine, license to be a grumpy asshole, you can shit yourself and other people have to clean it up, more free morphine… I would have to agree that is the BEST time to do whatever the hell you please.

      2. No, we want them dead, remember. Why do you think we’re all about destroying Social Security and Medicare, anyway?

  4. Also,

    Gary Taubes in Science, 1998, The Political Science of Salt (pdf)



  6. Gary Taubes also wrote about this in 1998 in Science magazine. My link to it was marked as spam “by a third-party spam filter.” I hate parties.

    here’s a more generic link:

  7. As someone who has a 9 month old with Cystic Fibrosis, I can tell you that salt is very important part of the diet and not being able to get enough of it (or in his case, process it correctly) leads to all sorts of bad things. We actually have to add salt to his bottles and to his food, in order for him to overcome the CF messing with his body.

    1. My late younger brother had CF and required what looked like toxic amounts of salt. He was healthy enough in his teenage years to play soccer, but it required a constant supply of calories and salt. I recall his jerseys being caked with sweat salt afterwards.

      1. True. An Old Wives’ DX was to lick newborns after being cleaned up and fed to determine of CF was present. If the newborn tasted salty, then the suspicion of CF was raised.

        A brief HX of CF here.

      2. @sy, very sorry to hear about your younger brother.

        @Groovus. My wife says she can taste the salt, but I can’t. He had a 100 on his sweat test though (high scores are not good), so it has to be there.

  8. I’d post a link to Gary Taubes 1998 Science article “The (Political) Science of Salt” but the spam filter keeps throwing it out.

    Hmm, SPAM. Also contains salt and is basically a factory produced P?t? de campagne.

    1. I made Spam musubi for a Memorial Day party. Everyone was all “Ew” and “WTF, dude?” and after they tried it, they wolfed it down and fought over it and demanded I make more.

      1. I’ll take your word for it.

      2. Yikes. *gag* Taste is subjective …..but….*gag*….seaweed and spam? *gag*

      3. Spam musubi? Well, now we know the true reason the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

        I’d declare war against such an insult to a culinary heritage as well.

        1. I think you got the chain of causation backwards.

            1. The Japanese are Time Lords? That explains everything, and nothing.

      4. Sounds tasty. I shall seek out a good recipe.

  9. Remember that the real point of reducing salt is to make things taste worse. Why else would little Nazis like Bloomberg have such a boner for it?

    1. Is control controlled by its need to control?

      1. No. Like all fetishes, feeding it makes it stronger.

        1. There’s no freude like Kontrollefreude.

      2. Kontrollefreude.

    2. to make things taste worse
      Pleasure is bad. Puritans are alive and well.

      1. Yeah, it’s starting to seem like the only problem they’d have with the actual puritans is that the puraitns’ opinions didn’t feign scientific credibility.

        1. And people still wonder why I have so little respect for authority.

        2. And actual puritans tried to live by the rules they wanted to impose. Unlike Bloomy.

          1. Unlike bloomy, actual puritans didn’t have loads of illgotten cash to spend on haute cuisine.

    3. Versuchenschei? SCHNELL!

  10. So, once again, the science is settled.

    Which all my science profs would find interesting, seeing as how the Scientific Method really suggess more that, “the science is NEVER ‘settled’, it’s just ‘what we think we know at this moment based on our best research to date’, and always subject to change based upon the latest info”, or something along those lines.

    AGW/Climate Change, Salt, Flat Earth – it’s allllll settled.

    Mmmmmm, I do love me some salt!

    1. A boiled egg w/ salt must really be bad because we all know eggs are bad too, right?

    2. Isn’t Flat Earth kinda settled?

      1. take your euclidean geometry and shove it up your denier-ass!

      2. You Spheroids say that, but someday you’ll sail of the edge and see Great A’tuin. Then you’ll repent your ways.

      3. I believe he was referring to the fact that the idea that the earth was flat was once thought to be settled.

      4. There are probably several others that could safely be called settled. But those will be things that are considered so obvious today that most people don’t even think of them as science (things like the fact that the sun will, once again, appear to rise tomorrow morning).

  11. “Put simply, the possibility has been raised that if we were to eat as little salt as the U.S.D.A. and the C.D.C. recommend, we’d be harming rather than helping ourselves….”

    In other words, taking the advice of government Top Men is a bad idea. Yeah, in other news Water is wet, Sky is blue…all that.

    1. That was my second reaction, right after I started wondering — why the fuck would anybody do anything the USDA or CDC says or recommends?

  12. Well, if the salt monster attacks and takes away your salt, you die. I saw it on TV.

    1. I saw that episode when I was very young and it scared the crap out of me.

      The Doomsday Machine was even worse, though. Gave me nightmares.

      1. Mom says I ran from the room when the salt monster was revealed. Of course, I was only just able to run at that age, so it’s not surprising. Didn’t stop me from watching the show, though.

        1. This scared me when I was young.

          1. I want one of those for my office.

            1. That’s one way to ensure my 8 year old clone never breaks into it and rifles through your stuff.

          2. These things scared the ever lovin hell out of me.

            1. Was that Land of the Lost?

              1. How could Sleestaks be scary? They can be outrun at a dead walk. By a turtle.

            2. These things scared the ever lovin hell out of me.

              Spawn of CftBL

            3. These things are what scared the shit out of me as a child.

              1. Apparently you can’t link directly to a Google search anymore.

                These things are what I’m talking about.

    2. Wow, now that Fatty points that out, I remember being scared from seeing that as well.

      1. This salt monster?…..25bih=817

        1. That didn’t work very well.

      2. There was the salt vampire, the vampire cloud and the hate cloud vampire. Is that all?

  13. More shills for Big Salt.…..rkers.html

    1. Steve Smith caught on terrifying video.…..light.html

      1. Wait a min, in addition to that story there are these also;

        “Woman caught performing sex act on herself by side of highway is arrested wearing only a shirt and exposing herself to passing motorists”

        “Cats away! Artist turns his dead pet into flying helicopter after it is killed by a car”

        Nearly every story there has pussy as it’s theme.

    2. From the article;

      “They produce a red pigment that absorbs and uses the energy of sunlight to create more energy”

      I vaguely remember my professors mentioning something along the lines of ‘Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be converted from one form to another’, or something like that.

      1. I would be willing to guess that a healthy knowledge of basic scientific principles is not a prerequisite for employment at the Daily Fail.

      2. Obviously your professor was a shill for Big Salt.

        1. BIG SALT

      3. Young Lady, In THIS blog we obey the LAWS OF THERMODYNAMICS!

      4. the distinction between “create” and “generate” is lost on most public school graduates.

  14. I put enormous amounts of salt on most food, and I’m not planning to change that anytime soon. Bloomprick and his coreligionists at the Grand Ministry of Agriculture can shove it where the Sun don’t shine.

    1. Just be thankful Perdue is retiring, or I’m sure we’d be following suit.

  15. Pass the Doritos.

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