This has been a long time coming..

And it is finally here:

For decades, policy makers have tried and failed to get Americans to eat less salt. In April 2010 the Institute of Medicine urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate the amount of salt that food manufacturers put into products; New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has already convinced 16 companies to do so voluntarily. But if the U.S. does conquer salt, what will we gain? Bland french fries, for sure. But a healthy nation? Not necessarily.

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.

The problem isn’t salt: its genetics and bad habits. Sodium Chloride consumption is critical to help the body do a lot of things. I have believed that reducing it drastically as we are being told to do, was going to do more harm than good, and it looks like the science – real science – is now proving that. I also want to mention that I read a study a while back linking the massive rise in depression to the fact we where telling people to consume a lot less alt and to totally avoid the sun (vitamin D), both essential to keeping a healthy chemical balance necessary for mental stability.

BTW, this issue with salt was one of the things, like eggs, that for over a decade we where told the science had settled. They where wrong of course, and the scientific process, allowed to run its course, proved that. Enjoy that salt. It is good for you. I just wish we could hold the assholes that peddled this junk science accountable for screwing us all over for this long. My guess is they will just be given a pass.

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  1. Hal_10000

    Holy crap, I agree with Alex on something! :)

    To be fair, it’s hard to find people with “low salt” diets because salt is so ubiquitous. But i does show just how shaky is much of the “science” that the Nanny State is built on.

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  2. Seattle Outcast

    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.

    If you dig around you can find studies going back to the 70’s that showed this. I remember when I first read about the whole “salt = heart attacks” bit I thought “sounds like bullshit” (I was about 10 at the time), and I found other stuff to read that cast serious doubt on the whole idea. It was about twenty years ago when I actually heard someone in the medical field tell me flat out that it was total bullshit, along with trying to dramatically cut your cholesterol via dietary changes.

    I’ve also heard the same thing about secondary smoke. Of course, even if it isn’t bad for me, I don’t want to put up with it.

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  3. CM

    Reaction to the research from some experts below. Doesn’t sound quite as cut-and-dry after reading these. Also seems to be one of those health situations where some people are more vulnerable to the effects than others.

    Robert Beaglehole, Emeritus Professor, University of Auckland and former World Health Organisation Director of the Department of Chronic Disease and Health Promotion comments:

    “I agree that there is not yet sufficient evidence on hard outcomes, though there is plenty of evidence that salt reduction reduces blood pressure. A decent mortality study is still required. In the meantime, we should be doing all we can to reduce salt intakes – current high levels serve no useful purpose and are probably very harmful. Further, the real problem is that giving advice to reduce salt intake doesn’t work. We need to reduce the amount of salt in manufactured food”.

    Professor Robert Walker, Head of Department, School of Medicine, University of Otago, comments:

    “An interesting analysis. I think the important issue is that it is from a relatively small number of studies 7 in total but only 2 were in groups that would be deemed at moderate risk – the more hypertensive group.

    “Lowering salt intake has clear cut evidence for reducing blood pressure. However blood pressure is not the only cardiovascular risk and therefore it has to be seen in the global context of reducing risk not as the sole intervention to reduce heart attacks.

    “In addition, the impact of salt is not solely on blood pressure, elevated salt intake also has direct effects on blood vessel function independent to that of blood pressure. This may be more critical to the risk of stroke or kidney damage, rather that heart attack, which the meta-analysis did not address.

    “Therefore in the context of general good health, it is not appropriate to go out and reload the salt shaker. Dietary reduction in salt for those at risk of cardiovascular disease should still be encouraged and placed in the same context as exercise, healthy diet and smoking cessation.”

    Elaine Rush, Professor of Nutrition, Auckland University of Technology, comments:

    “Cutting down on salt does not reduce the likelihood of dying or experiencing cardiovascular disease.

    Facts: “Both the elements of “common salt”, sodium and chloride, are essential for animal life. Sodium is also found in food as sodium bicarbonate, monosodium glutamate and food additives. The daily intake of sodium is exquisitely balanced by the body through excretion in urine and sweat.

    “Higher blood pressure is associated with high intakes of sodium and also obesity and existing high blood pressure. There is a genetic predisposition for risk high blood pressure in some families and ethnic groups. Across the lifecourse all the environmental pressures that drive obesity also drive hypertension

    What we do not know: “The authors state that there is insufficient data to exclude clinically important effects of reduced dietary salt on mortality or cardiovascular morbidity.

    “For the studies reported ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, menopausal status, age were not included in the overall analysis. Most of the participants were white and male. The percentage female is not reported.

    What we should consider: “Hypertension does not just happen, as we age blood pressure increases. Relatively high blood pressure in young children and adolescents is a risk factor for high blood pressure in later life. Reducing salt intake may help, but increased physical activity, less stress, losing extra weight and improving the nutrient quality of the foods eaten also help reduce blood pressure and improve health

    “Putting the spotlight on single nutrient trials and generalizing dietary advice for a single nutrient, in this case to reduce salt intake, is not helpful. What is helpful is for the food industry to reformulate products to reduce sodium AND increase the nutrient quality of foods by using real ingredients.

    “Junk food and marketing to children are elephants in the room. Changes in our attitudes to these would markedly reduce salt consumed, shift consumption to real foods and be more friendly to health and the environment – long term.”

    Delvina Gorton, National Nutrition Advisor, Heart Foundation, comments:

    “The Heart Foundation welcomes the Cochrane Collaboration’s robust review of the effect of moderate salt reduction. As the author’s acknowledge, however, there was simply not enough data to allow them to draw firm conclusions around whether moderate salt reduction has an effect on risk of heart attack or death.

    The authors estimated they needed 18,000 participants to draw firm conclusions – substantially more than the 6,489 participants in the seven studies included in the review. Reduced risk ratios suggested a beneficial effect from moderate salt reduction but the sample size was too small for the trend to be conclusive.

    Other types of research have conclusively linked moderate salt reduction with reduced risk. The Heart Foundation maintains its position of advocating salt reduction for all New Zealanders and will continue to support the food industry in reducing salt levels in pre-prepared foods.”

    Simon Capewell, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Liverpool comments:

    “This is a disappointing and inconclusive meta-analysis, with mixed data and small numbers of events. It is fronted by a potentially misleading press release from the American Journal of Hypertension.

    “The main Cochrane message is that advice to individuals only succeeds in getting them to reduce their salt intake a little.

    “This is not a new finding.

    “Crucially, it does not change the public health consensus from the WHO, PAHO, NICE etc, which is that: 1. Dietary salt raises blood pressure (this is bad), 2. Reducing dietary salt intake lowers blood pressure (this is good), 3. Government actions are far more effective and cost saving at reducing dietary salt intake, than is advice to individuals.”

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/SC1107/S00017/experts-respond-moderate-salt-reduction-benefits-questioned.htm

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  4. Seattle Outcast

    current high levels serve no useful purpose and are probably very harmful. Further, the real problem is that giving advice to reduce salt intake doesn’t work. We need to reduce the amount of salt in manufactured food

    And that right there is the problem – unsubstantiated claims combined opinion along with demands of control.

    Robert Beaglehole can go fuck himself with a sharp stick…

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  5. InsipiD

    Beaglehole. That’s right up there with Lipschitz and Buttafuoco.

    All the studies don’t even matter, though. Why should the government require a reduction in salt content? It means nothing without also banning the private sale of salt, as cutting salt content without cutting availability won’t necessarily cut consumption.

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  6. CM

    Yeah I’m not a fan of mandating what should or shouldn’t go into food.
    However I think it’s dangerous to hold up a single analysis as ‘proof’ of anything. As if this ‘finally’ proves something.
    Even though SO is right about that quote, there’s plenty else in there to indicate this isn’t a simplistic issue (“salt = not bad”).

    Beaglehole. That’s right up there with Lipschitz and Buttafuoco.

    LOL. Totally. Doesn’t matter how much of an expert you are, people ain’t gonna take you all that seriously with a name like that.

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  7. balthazar

    What I think is the most funny in all this is that people STILL seem to think that salt will actually give you high blood pressure. NO salt does not cause high blood pressure. Jesus people are dumb.

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  8. CM

    I think the point being made by those expert responses is that in some people excess salt DOES lead to high blood pressure.
    It would be irrresponsible for any scientist or health expert to make any claims, because the effects are different depending on who you are.

    When you consume excess table salt, which contains 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride, the sodium level in your blood rises. Sodium pulls fluid from tissues into the blood, raising the blood volume. When the blood volume increases, the pressure against the blood vessel walls increases. Your heart must pump more forcefully and blood pressure rises.

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  9. balthazar

    Exactly, both of these have miraculous ability to help you lose weight as well as keep a normal weight. Losing weight is the BEST way to avoid high blood pressure.

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  10. AlexInCT *

    I think the point being made by those expert responses is that in some people excess salt DOES lead to high blood pressure.

    Too much water kills too CM. The blood pressure problem, as I suspect is the case with many other problems/diseases people face these days, is likely caused by genetics. Modern medicine has allowed for a world where many people that would have been weeded out from natural selection now can reproduce, propagating their bad genes (NO I am not advocating any kind of idiotic eugenics or control of who can mate with who, just pointing out the obvious). But the assumption by the elites that we ALL need to give up salt, because it is bad for SOME people, is outright tyrannical.

    When you consume excess table salt, which contains 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride, the sodium level in your blood rises. Sodium pulls fluid from tissues into the blood, raising the blood volume. When the blood volume increases, the pressure against the blood vessel walls increases. Your heart must pump more forcefully and blood pressure rises.

    All people that like salt need to do, and is what I do, is drink more water and your entire hypothesis goes out the window. You do piss a lot more, but hey. There is a trade off in everything.

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  11. CM

    A high sodium salt intake also causes other health damage, such as greater retention of water in your body, which leads to swelling of the ankles and weight gain. Too much salt also worsens thinning of the bones (osteoporosis), asthma and kidney disease and is closely related to cancer of the stomach.

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  12. CM

    It’s an assumption to think that if people have too much salt then they automatically drink water. Often when people get thirsty they either drink soda (or something else that’s not water), or they’re too busy and don’t drink anything.

    The Cochrane Collaboration found that “a modest and long term reduction in population salt intake […] would result in a lower population blood pressure, and a reduction in strokes, heart attacks and heart failure. Furthermore, our study is consistent with the fact that the lower the salt intake, the lower the blood pressure.”[47]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt#Health_effects

    As usual, everything in moderation (except moderation).

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  13. Miguelito

    It’s an assumption to think that if people have too much salt then they automatically drink water.

    I get the feeling from what I’ve heard from doctors and the data I’ve read or been told (which is a lot since I’ve been through a medically supervised diet program) that the lack of drinking water is far more the problem then the intake of salt.

    Far too many people (including myself really) drink too many sodas or other drinks vs just having water. Those drinks tend to have things like caffeine, more sodium, etc. I’ve made it a point to drink more water and just changing that can make quite a difference. With sodas, sport drinks, coffees, teas, etc.. there are a lot of people that rarely drink plain old water it seems.

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  14. Miguelito

    If you dig around you can find studies going back to the 70′s that showed this.

    Almost all the nutritional stuff that’s happened in the last 50 or so years seems to be based on bullshit. There’s more data coming out showing things like the huge “Fat is teh evil!” campaign has done far more harm then good as well. Far too much intake of sugars, salts and basically tons more carbs has replaced the fat (mostly for taste) that some doctors are flat out blaming it for rises in obesity and diabetes.

    There’s a video of a doctor of the diabetes group at UCSF (or another UC school) that’s like 1-1/2 long where he shows how the rise of fructose usage has been a huge cause of a lot of the obesity/diabetic issues. He doesn’t just say it, he shows the specific reasons why showing how each thing is broken down by our bodies and why it’s so bad for us. Granted, he could be wrong or just off on the effect, but it sure looks compelling.

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  15. balthazar

    So again we see that you want to regulate peoples behavior that has no effect upon you, whereas I and others want to let them decide for themselves, just give them the information they need to hopefully make a better decision.

    How can you not see the difference?

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