I found this opinion piece to be noteworthy because it challenges something that we are very frequently told by the medical community....
Now I know many of you will recognize the "common sense" advice... too much salt is bad for you
... and I don't challenge the notion, simply because too much of anything is likely to be bad for you
But how it became such a powerful meme sort of eluded me... and this NY Time article helps demonstrate that:
This article started life , apparently, entitled "We Only Think we Know the Truth About Salt,"
but that may have been the title submitted by
the author... because in the NYT is appears as
Salt, We Misjudged You
According to the author, almost 40 years ago, researchers were propagating the 'science' of the time that maintained salt supplementation was
unnecessary after strenuous exercise, this advice was being passed dutifully on by health reporters.
...I had played high school football in suburban Maryland, sweating profusely through double sessions in the swamplike 90-degree days of August.
Without salt pills, I couldn’t make it through a two-hour practice; I couldn’t walk across the parking lot afterward without cramping.
I suppose the author wants to point out the stark difference between reality and theory....
The author grants that sports nutritionists have since begun recommending we should indeed replenish salt when we sweat it out in physical activity,
yet the message that we should avoid salt at all other times remains strong.
Eating salt is said to raise blood pressure, cause hypertension and increase the risk of premature death.
The Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines still consider salt the greatest threat to public health, more so than fats, sugars and alcohol.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested that reducing salt consumption is as critical to long-term health as quitting
The over consumption of salt is reported by establishment authorities as more damaging than too much sugar, alcohol, or even fat.
The "eat less salt" argument has been sounded stridently despite a very curious set of circumstances, according to this author; namely, that "the
actual evidence to support it has always been so weak."
When I spent the better part of a year researching the state of the salt science back in 1998 — already a quarter century into the eat-less-salt
recommendations — journal editors and public health administrators were still remarkably candid in their assessment of how flimsy the evidence was
implicating salt as the cause of hypertension.
Drummond Rennie, an editor of The Journal of the American Medical Association, candidly commented that the authorities pushing the eat-less-salt
message had “made a commitment to salt education that goes way beyond the scientific facts.
As I have come to perceive as customary in the fields of nutrition science; the contradiction between what we are indoctrinated to believe is very
different from what we know today.
.... 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.
I learned a new phrase to apply to this meme's power in our society.... "biological plausibility."
Eat more salt and your body retains water to maintain a stable concentration of sodium in your blood. This is why eating salty food tends to make
us thirsty: we drink more; we retain water. The result can be a temporary increase in blood pressure, which will persist until our kidneys eliminate
both salt and water.
Seems reasonable... more fluid in the body means more pressure within the container that holds it, our blood vessels... this pressure is relieved when
the salt and fluid are excreted. Fairly logical, I think.
The scientific question is whether this temporary phenomenon translates to chronic problems: if we eat too much salt for years, does it raise our
blood pressure, cause hypertension, then strokes, and then kill us prematurely? It makes sense, but it’s only a hypothesis....
Yet even as late as 1972, no meaningful experiments had been done to determine the validity of the hypothesis; instead, the declaration regarding the
'danger' of salt was based on two (2) clinically-recognized studies....
1) Populations that ate little salt had virtually no hypertension, and
2) a strain of “salt-sensitive” rats that reliably developed hypertension on a high-salt diet.
Yet, in the case of number 1, the study failed to account for the fact that in a population using little or no salt, the differences between
populations was not limited to that difference, they ate different types of diets altogether; and their lifestyles were notably different as well.
And more interesting to me, in the case of observation number 2, the increased amount of salt fed to the rats was 60 times higher than the average
So how does this 'common sense' maxim about "eat less salt" gain so much support?
In the fight against hypertension, eating less salt seemed to be the only available option at the time, short of losing weight. Researchers quietly
acknowledged that the data were “inconclusive and contradictory”
or “inconsistent and contradictory”
— publicly, the link
between salt and blood pressure was upgraded from hypothesis to fact.
In the years since, the N.I.H. has spent enormous sums of money on studies to test the hypothesis, and those studies have singularly failed to
make the evidence any more conclusive. Instead, the organizations advocating salt restriction today — the U.S.D.A., the Institute of Medicine, the
C.D.C. and the N.I.H. — all essentially rely on the results from a 30-day trial of salt, the 2001 DASH-Sodium study. It suggested that eating
significantly less salt would modestly lower blood pressure; it said nothing about whether this would reduce hypertension, prevent heart disease or
The news gets more damning as we dig deeper... and apparently, there is a 'journalist' stigma to be garnered if you dare raise doubts about the
official position that over-consumption of salt causes hypertensive disease and premature death.
I hope you all have a moment to read the article for it's important content; but also to note how we are not well-served by simply accepting that
organizations like the NIH, CDC, and others are incapable of "being wrong."
Fact is... they wouldn't tell us if they were wrong ... that would be politically inexpedient... especially after having been so very wrong... for so
edit on 4-6-2012 by Maxmars because: (no reason given)