Science

Go Ahead, Put Salt on Your Food

Ignore the feds' bad advice on diet and nutrition.

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"Salt," an unknown wit once said, "is what makes things taste bad when it isn't in them." In that sense, government nutrition nannies have spent decades urging Americans to make their food taste bad.

In June 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued proposed guidelines to the food industry to reduce the amount of sodium in many prepared foods. The agency, noting that the average American eats about 3,400 mg of sodium daily, wants to cut that back to only 2,300 mg. That is basically the amount of sodium in one teaspoon of salt. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) similarly advises that "most Americans should consume less sodium" because "excess sodium can increase your blood pressure and your risk for a heart disease and stroke."

There's one problem: Evidence has been gathering for years that government salt consumption guidelines might well kill more people than they save.

The research does suggest that some subset of Americans may be especially sensitive to salt and would benefit from consuming less. Among those are folks with ancestors from Sub-Saharan Africa. But for most people, the risk lies elsewhere.

A 2014 meta-analysis of more than two dozen relevant studies, published in the American Journal of Hypertension, concluded that risk of death appeared to be lowest among individuals consuming between 2,565 mg and 4,796 mg of sodium per day, with higher rates of death above and below that consumption range. As noted above, the FDA itself reports that average daily consumption is 3,400 mg—right in the middle of the ideal range.

In April, a new study by researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine, who followed more than 2,600 people for 16 years, once again debunked the dire claims about salt. "We saw no evidence that a diet lower in sodium had any long-term beneficial effects on blood pressure," said lead researcher Lynn Moore. "Our findings add to growing evidence that current recommendations for sodium intake may be misguided."

In fact, the authors found that study participants who consumed less than 2,500 mg a day had higher blood pressure than those who consumed more. They also pointed out that other research has also found that people who consume very high or very low amounts are both at greater cardiovascular risk. "Those with the lowest risk," they noted, "had sodium intakes in the middle, which is the range consumed by most Americans."

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  1. This article and ones like it would be improved by links to the mentioned studies, or — as is sometimes all that’s publicly available — abstracts.

    For print readers, perhaps — what did they used to be called? — oh yeah, footnotes.

    1. There’s enough information to google for. I found several likely candidates, and that’s surely enough for anyone serious about sources.

      1. One I would like, but am having issue finding, is raw data of sodium consumption. Every time I see an average my first question is what’s the spread.

        1. You’d like to sift through the raw data of 2,500 people over 16 years? Got a lot of time on your hands?

          1. @mtrueman: there is this thing called Excel you might want to learn about. Finding the average and spread of a dataset takes less than 5 minutes.

            1. You’re assuming BestUsedCarSales knows about ‘Excel.’ I very much doubt this.

              1. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

                This is what I do… http://www.onlinecareer10.com

              2. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

                This is what I do… http://www.onlinecareer10.com

    2. I was thinking the author, who styles himself as a journalist, could have improved the piece by contacting the ‘nannies,’ as he calls them, and interviewed them for a reaction to this study.

  2. Not so fast, Ron…

    SOUNDING BOARD
    Dietary Sodium and Cardiovascular Disease Risk ? Measurement Matters
    June 1, 2016
    http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsb1607161

    Many leading medical and public health organizations recommend reducing dietary sodium … Yet this benefit has been questioned, mainly on the basis of studies suggesting that low sodium intake is also associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.18-22

    In science, conflicting evidence from studies with methods of different strengths is not uncommon. Studies that measure sodium intake vary widely in their methods and should be judged accordingly. Accurate measurement matters.23-26 Paradoxical findings based on inaccurate sodium measurements should not stall efforts to improve the food environment in ways that enable consumers to reduce excess sodium intake. Gradual, stepwise sodium reduction, as recommended by the Institute of Medicine,27 remains an achievable, effective, and important public health strategy to prevent tens of thousands of heart attacks and strokes and save billions of dollars in health care costs annually.28

    [Emphasis added]From the abstract:

    The benefit of reducing dietary sodium for lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease has been questioned because some studies have also linked low sodium intake with increased CVD risk. Application of Hill’s criteria, however, indicates that the association is not causal.

    1. Ron is a cock holster for the fossil fuel industry. Science denial and cherry-picking is how he keeps himself in shape. He is the one that Pruitt shall be calling to debate for climate change denial.

  3. Where’s your full disclosure Mr Bailey? I believe you are known to salt bacon

    1. Mr Bailey may be shilling for “Big Salt”, possibly, so beware!

      PS, do salt factories emit C-Oh-2 and/or other global-climate-change-causing gasses? If so, then, MORE reason to avoid salt! We should also consider developing “salt sequestration” technologies… Then start de-salting the oceans, and sequestering the salt, to be extra safe…

  4. It used to be a joke that coffee, chocolate, eggs, bacon, and various other foods were bad for you, then good, then bad — I remember late night TV jokes about the constantly changing recommendations.

    And yet people still think government is competent.

    I used to think government must have some areas of competence, even if it was just doling out the dole equitably. But there are always stories about people mistakenly declared dead who can’t get the decision reversed even if just for the SS pension. The last straw for me was reading about John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil — how he got such a huge market share through hard work and innovation, how he single-handedly (so to speak) saved the whales, and how the book which defamed him and led to the bustup of Standard Oil was written by the wife of one of his relatively lazy and incompetent competitors.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that government is the archetype of incompetence, that it cannot, never has, and never will be competent at anything, and that anyone who claims otherwise bears the burden of proving it. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof and all that.

    1. Government Almighty is actually good at one thing… Stoking up fears of imagined or vastly exaggerated boogie-men, and then waging wars (real or metaphorical) on them. Wars on Huns, poverty, drugs, global climate change, too much salt in our diet, and on and on. But of course, “war is the health of the State”.

      1. Well, I mean, it’s hard to tell if government is actually good at war, or if a private army with comparable resources would be more powerful, since AFAIK the latter’s never really existed?

        1. Professional mercenary armies have existed at many points throughout history. There are pros and cons.

    2. Butter, margarine, butter, margarine, butter, margarine… fuck it, butter tastes best. And bacon fat.

  5. I salt your point Ronald.

    So dium all in your diet.

    1. Hal, ite’s good on everything.

  6. What a moronic bit of studying, Ronny! The FDA only recommends what the scientists have established, and they have confirmed. To cite scientists to disregard what the FDA says is akin to claiming that if the FDA recommends it, it cannot be scientific.

    Go fuck a fossil fuel pump!

  7. The government guidelines are guidelines.
    They should be carefully considered, especially the food pyramid, which the feds admit is wrong, as they plan to change it every five years.
    After careful consideration, ignore the feds.

  8. During my 75 years there have been numerous government studies linking various foods that are “bad” for us that later became “good” for us. For year it was recommended to limit coffee intake, now the latest is “drink more coffee, it’s good for you.”

  9. Serious question: is it possible that the people who consumed the lower amounts of sodium already had heart trouble and were reducing salt intake because of that? (I’m sure the original study addresses this, but I can’t find a good answer after asking Google once, and it’s a long weekend and I’m lazy.)

    1. This was also my thought.

    2. Yes, and Ron conveniently neglects to mention the problems with the measurement techniques and co-morbidities. Strange that he finds 2-3 studies (one a “meta”) compelling on sodium intake but remains concerned about global warming in spite of hundreds of publications pointing to problems with the CAGW hypothesis. Huh.

      1. Yes, Ron is to be taken with a pinch of salt…

  10. Who is surprised when it is learned that government recommendation may do more harm than good? Isn’t that true of almost everything that the government does?

  11. As long as it is Celtic Sea Salt, or Himalayan Pink Salt, which are loaded with nutrients, there is nothing to worry about….That Iodized crap is like Pasteurized milk, where they took out all the good stuff!!!

    1. For the record; pasteurization involves heating the product for about 15 seconds. This kills most of the bacteria that would cause illness after a short, allowing longer term (refrigerated) storage. No removal or addition of anything.

    2. Uh, no they are not “loaded with nutrients”. They contain small amounts of trace minerals besides NaCl. The only thing that really distinguishes sea salt or less refined salt is subtle differences in flavor and texture.

  12. As a physician I instinctively knew this was true. Only people suffering from fluid retention or heart failure may need sodium restriction. I am glad this was finally published. Unfortunately the old recommendations will persist for years before the truth spreads widely enough.

  13. Apparently, mitral-valve prolapse is made better with salt. Certainly, water conducts electricity better with salt in it, which is my hypothesis for why this might be. Generally, I simply pay attention to whether I’m feeling the lack of salt and need more. I don’t want my electricity to cease!

  14. Salt is on potato chips; therefore it cannot possibly be evil.

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