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Mainely Tipping Points

Interesting Information: 10 Salt Myths

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Interesting Information:  June 4, 2012

Ten Salt  Myths

This past Sunday’s New York Times ran a long piece by Gary Taubes called “Salt, We Misjudged You” (Opinion, 8-9).  Taubes traces the history of how salt became demonized in the 1970s and 1980s–without adequate scientific data to justify such a stance.  It might seem like “common sense” to relate salt intake to high blood pressure problems since salt can make one thirsty.  But that HYPOTHESIS has not proven to be true–as I related in Mainely Tipping Points Essay 38, located on this blog.

Meanwhile, Taube notes, many prominent organizations are promoting a low-salt diet, among them the USDA, the Institute of Medicine, the CDC, and the NIH.  Their view is based on a 30-day trial of salt, the 2001 DASH-Sodium study.  That study suggested that lowering salt intake “modestly lowered blood pressure,” but it “said nothing about whether this would reduce hypertension, prevent heart disease or lengthen life.”  And, I would ask, how would one know if the salt reduction was a factor or if other foods eaten or not eaten were factors?

The recommendations from these large organizations is ignoring, deliberately, recent research showing that salt reduction is dangerous to human health.  Recent research using some 100,000 people in 30 countries showed that salt consumption has been, Taubes writes, “remarkably stable among populations over time.”  Four recent studies “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.”  This “normal range” is considerably higher than recent recommendations by the USDA in its food guide.

In November of last year, Taubes writes, both the USDA and the FDA held hearings to “discuss how to go about getting Americans to eat less salt (as opposed to whether or not we should eat less salt).  Proponents speaking against salt consumption argued that “the latest reports suggesting damage from lower-salt diets should simply be ignored.”

OK.  That’s not scientific.  That’s BELIEF SYSTEM, and I’ve said many times on this blog, uncritical BELIEF SYSTEMS are dangerous.  They can, like this one about salt, kill you.  Taubes says the following:

“This attitude that studies that go against prevailing beliefs should be ignored on the basis that, well, they go against prevailing beliefs, has been the norm for the anti-salt campaign for decades.”

Mortin Satin, PhD, Vice President, Science and Research, The Salt Institute, writing in the Spring 2012 Wise Traditions, the journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, lists 10 myths about salt (http://www.westonaprice.org/vitamins-and-minerals/salt-and-our-health).  Some will surprise you.

Myth 1:  We eat more salt than ever before.  NOPE.  Our salt consumption today is about one half of the amount consumed between the War of 1812 and the end of World War II–which was about 3.3 teaspoons per day.  Increased refrigeration and not using salt as a preservative are factors.

Myth 2:  Our knowledge of the major sources of salt in our diet (80% from processed foods) is unquestionable.  NOPE.  This notion is based on a single paper from 1991 which involved 62 people and dietary recall–which is not reliable.  (It’s amazing to me how often dietary recall is being used in studies  The most recent I can recall is that study saying red meat was bad for you.)

Myth 3:  Our salt consumption continues to rise every year.  NOPE.  See Myth 1.

Myth 4:  The thirty-year public health initiative in Finland represents a successful model of salt reduction.  NOPE.  Health benefits were marginally worse than countries that did not reduce salt consumption.

Myth 5:  Current levels of salt consumption result in premature cardiovascular disease and death.  NOPE.  Data shows that the higher the salt consumption, the longer the life expectancy.  (Mainely Tipping Points 38 discusses the connections between cutting salt consumption and heart problems.)

Myth 6:  Cutting back on salt will improve the overall diet.  NOPE.  Salt enhances foods that would be bitter without it, like the all-important greens.  (Somewhere else I read that salt helps you break down and digest meats.)

Myth 7:  Reduced salt levels are critical to the DASH diet.  NOPE.  Data shows moving to a DASH diet significantly impacts blood pressure without any changes in salt consumption.  (I am NOT a fan of the DASH diet–too many carbohydrates and fructose.  It’s useful if you’ve been eating junk food, but I believe the GAPS diet and the Paleo diet are better choices.)

Myth 8: There is a clear relationship between salt intake and blood pressure.  NOPE.  There, famously, is not a clear relationship.  Satin gives a really good example using the standard hospital saline IV drip, which gives about 4.5 teaspoons of salt per day in addition to the teaspoon of salt taken in food.  Blood pressure, checked every 4 to 6 hours, does not change.

Myth 9:  Reducing salt intake can do no harm.   NOPE.  It can seriously harm you, and Satin gives a long list of worrisome outcomes.  Mainely Tipping Points 38 does as well.

Myth 10:  The U.S. Dietary Guideline process is valid.  NOPE.  Satin notes that these guidelines have not been peer-reviewed and are based on the lowest quality of information–opinion.  Or, in my terms, on BELIEF SYSTEM.  These guidelines are not independent or objective, according to Satin, who walks through why.   I would say that the USDA guidelines about so many food issues–among them consumption of salt, saturated fat, meat, the amount of carbohydrates deemed ok, and so many of the issues I’ve been covering in my essays–are now so far off track that it’s far, far better to totally ignore them.

Let your body decide your salt intake.  But, use GOOD salts–as discussed in Mainely Tipping Points 38.  They include real salt dried from seawater–not the fake salts in the grocery store.  Real salt is full of minerals.

Written by louisaenright

June 4, 2012 at 4:29 pm

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