Thursday, April 29, 2010

Salt is controversial

NewScientist magazine claims that a salt conspiracy has planted articles in the NY Times:
There's no doubt about the health dangers of salt

SALT hidden in food kills millions of people worldwide. Reducing dietary salt is therefore important for public health; it is also one of the cheapest and easiest ways to save lives. So why are efforts to cut dietary salt being met with fierce resistance?

First the facts. Decreasing salt intake substantially reduces blood pressure, thus lowering the risk of heart attacks and strokes. An analysis of all the available evidence, published in 2007, suggested that reducing salt intake around the world by 15 per cent could prevent almost 9 million deaths by 2015. ...

Most people agree that even in free-market economies, governments have a duty of care. This is especially true for children, who are particularly vulnerable to high salt intake.

This is the ethical justification for public health interventions in salt consumption. Governments legislate to make public spaces smoke-free, and they mandate cholera-free drinking water. They should also aim to progressively reduce the salt hidden in food. ...

The salt industry's annual turnover is several billion dollars and it has no plans to downsize. Thus, in advance of the new US guidelines, articles have appeared in The New York Times and elsewhere claiming that the evidence for reducing salt is not clear-cut.

This controversy is fake. The evidence for salt reduction is clear and consistent.
I am suspicious any time some left-wing conspiracy-monger tries to promote some far-reaching policy on the grounds that there is a scientific consensus.

Salt is not comparable to cholera. Cholera is undesirable and harmful in all quantities. Salt is essential to life, and has no known harm to children and adults with normal blood pressure.

A science article should be telling us the trade-offs, not lecturing us on how govt authorities should be telling us what to eat. Salt is in food for reasons, and not just because of pressure from the salt lobby. Whether it is for taste or as a preservative, reducing salt will have its costs. Whether it is worth the costs is a political question, not a scientific one.

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