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The new enemy is salt

The new enemy is salt. Here is an interesting example at an early stage of how calls for legislation leap from study to implementation. A survey has looked at salt.

In the paper, Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo and colleagues, from the University of California, San Francisco, USA, undertook a computer simulation showing the effects of population wide reductions of dietary salt intakes in all adults aged 35 to 85 years in the USA. Reducing dietary salt intake by 3 g per day (1200mg less sodium per day) could result in 60,000 to 120,000 fewer cases of heart disease , 32,000 to 66,000 fewer strokes and 54,000 to 100,000 fewer heart attacks.

Just one study and even then, dietary recommendations are notorious for lack of reliability. But the recommendation follows like day after night:

A reduction in dietary salt of 3g per day, the authors went on to say, would have approximately the same effect on reducing cardiac events as a 50 % reduction in tobacco use, a 5% reduction in body mass index among obese adults or the use of statins to treat people at low or intermediate risk for CHD events. Furthermore, reducing dietary salt intakes by 3g per day would save $10 billion to $ 24 billion in annual health care costs

Precise, costed benefits that bear little resemblance to reality, but a comparison with the other devils of public health is utilised to define a ‘collective benefit’. Thus the call for legislation by the European Society of Cardiology:

While individuals may use salt sparingly at home, around 75 % of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy. This, says the ESC, underlines the need for legislation to lay down guidelines. “The reality of international food production in Europe means that such public health initiatives need to be tackled on a European wide basis, rather than an individual country basis,” said [Professor Frank] Ruschitzka.

Throw in a publicity week and the NGO for good measure:

Salt will again be on the agenda with World Salt Awareness Week 2010 , which runs from February 1- 7 (3). The week is being run by World Action on Salt and Health (WASH), a global group that works with governments to highlight the need for widespread introduction of population based salt reduction strategies

Add salt!

34 comments to The new enemy is salt

  • Ben Gardiner

    Oh dear, here we go again. Just as the dam finally starts to break on the Global Warming nonsense, up pops another scare based on computer models.

  • Alice

    “Reducing dietary salt intake by 3 g per day (1200mg less sodium per day) could result in 60,000 to 120,000 fewer cases of heart disease , 32,000 to 66,000 fewer strokes and 54,000 to 100,000 fewer heart attacks.”

    Further study over a longer projected term, using an even bigger computer model recycled from an old Global Warming grant, showed that unfortunately all those who benefitted from the fewer cases of heart disease later died anyway – in most cases after years of personally-degrading senility and expensive medical care.

  • Nuke Gray

    They sure go out on a limb with that ‘COULD’ talk!!! But I bet the bureaucrats love the following ‘WOULD SAVE $’ talk!
    If only this had been known when Gandhi was causing such trouble for the Empire- we could have stopped his protest march to the sea by revealing how bad salt really was!

  • Snag

    It seems we have all got the wrong end of the stick. For years we have been complaining that governments have taken more and more control over our daily lives, and have attempted to make even the most basic decisions for us.

    We were wrong.

    It appears, according to a certain Keith E. Hunter, Commander of the Metropolitan Police 1981-87, who wrote to The Times yesterday about the Edlington child brutalities, that:

    “Throughout this period [from the 1960s onwards] came the growth of a middle-class meritocracy, into which large sections of the working class, of which I was an aspiring member, graduated, leaving behind an underclass rump containing out of control, dysfunctional, ASBO-ridden and often brutalised families. The problem seems to be at its worst in this country, where access to our new meritocracy is now more than ever strictly limited.

    Finally, out of the profound changes in society and culture during this period, has emerged a somewhat naive and helpless libertarian governing class of all political colours, which, as Eric Hobsbawn (sic) noted some years ago, has lost its nerve.”

    So you see, it was all our fault. Mea Maxima Culpa.

  • Tedd

    libertarian governing class of all political colours

    “Libertarian.” It’s the new “Neo-conservative!”

  • Oh, for beetle’s sake, will these insufferable twits ever put down the utopian schtick and step back from their fever ridden keyboards! The world would be much better served if they put their phenomenally irritating talents to better use. I recommend waiting at intersections to dart out into traffic and clean windshields, regardless of the status of the signal lights.

  • RobH NZ

    undertook a computer simulation…

    So it is just made up computer games anyway.
    The IPCC will probably be interested

  • Let us not forget our very own veteran UK bogo-charity, the aptly-named CASH. Note the glorious chutzpah, or possibly mere hubris, of its name – it sets out to create a consensus that Action Is Needed, and begins by calling itself ‘Consensus Action on Salt and Health’ in order to imply that the consensus already exists. As cheap tricks go, that is actually rather clever…

  • Howard R Gray

    Perhaps it is about time to set up the cock roach protection society, with a pinch of salt it just might save a few of the critters.

    Big Nanny, never tiring of social policing our habits, is just another element of the nagocracy. It is really the “jobsworth” mentality writ larger in a more populist form and frankly should be resisted on principle.

    The best response is to ridicule these oafs. Perhaps failing to wear ear muffs in winter should be a crime now after they have sapped our salt? Whatever next?

    More to the point, it is time to form SALT (salt and liberty together) to crush these pinheads.

    Personally, I don’t add food to my salt. Nuff said!

  • MarkE

    reducing dietary salt intakes by 3g per day would save $10 billion to $ 24 billion in annual health care costs

    I’m sure it doesn’t need pointing out here, but just in case there are any casual visitors who might not have noticed; even if the figures quoted are based on anything other than the purest guesswork, where is the other half of the equation? How much will be saved in pension costs?

    Obviously one has to assume that the savings quoted are net figures, having already accounted for the costs of dementia care and eventual death as identified by Alice. Aren’t they?

  • JC

    Don’t I recall something recent about the chip shops having to reduce the number of holes in the shakers? Pure Camel nose, that.

  • Stephen Willmer

    “This, says the ESC, underlines the need for legislation to lay down guidelines”

    Shouldn’t legislation being laying down, er, legislation?

    My question is rhetorical. Legislation laying down guidelines is an already commonplace abuse of the rule of law and supporting strut of arbitrary government.

  • damaged justice

    They always get it wrong. And even when they get it right, their only response is to ban.

    The state’s only tool is violence.

  • Andrew Duffin

    The salt thing is a load of nonsense put together from a combination of a lot studies about other things, it would not stand up even to a cursory statistical examination.

    In short – nothing to see here, move along.

    But when did that ever stop a good scare? Or the forthcoming bansturbation?

  • What Andrew Duffin said. As far as I can tell, nobody knows of a mechanism by which salt causes heart disease. Instead a correlation was found, and presumably some complicated (and infallible, of course) statistical analysis was done to remove other causes. Plug these statistics into a model and we have the study above.

    It’s amazing how I could replace “salt” with “carbon dioxide” and “heart disease” with “global warming” and the story would still be true.

    Not enough salt is a problem. We will have to start adding salt to out food. And crisps are becoming increasingly bland. There’s the real problem: salt makes food taste good.

  • llamas

    Just think . .

    For 99.987% of human existence, the availability of salt has been at the very core of the human condition. Nations wilted for the lack of it, wars were fought over it, its use caused civilizations to rise and others to fall. Great edifices of commerce were built on the getting and using of salt. People died and suffered in their millions for the lack of it. Not 70 years ago, a great nation rose up and grasped its independence as a direct result of the struggle for salt.

    Now it is so cheap and plentiful that it can be bought at an astounding state of purity for pennies per pound, and we throw it on the road to melt the snow.

    (or not, at least in the UK, so I’ve heard . . .)

    And yet all these pecksniffian Comstockers can think of to do – is to ban it.

    Fortunately, salt is so cheap, and so plentiful, and so easily gotten, that these clowns will have but minimal impact on the lives of real people. Perhaps it might be better to let them waste their time and efforts in trying to curb the use of salt – they can roll that rock uphill a long, long way. After all, they might well start looking to ban something esle that’s harder to replace.



  • Brad

    All I have ever read is that salt is only bad for that sliver of a minority with an organic intolerance to it or those who already have heart/high blood pressure or stroke issues tied with their whole, long standing diet – those who are healthy need not fear. I have no problem with someone advocating good advice to those who need it, even if it is a bit annoying if it’s unsolicited. But these folks always want to use a sledgehammer to kill a fly and advocate mass behavioral replacement from on high, even for those who have nothing to fear. One size fits all public policy, and the mentalities who contrive them, are the bane of libertarian/minarchic minded people.

  • Siha Sapa

    So one would have to assume that genetics no longer play into coronary disease? Equally that all adults have the same level of physical/athletic activity and thus identical salt requirements? Glad that’s settled, what a relief!

    I also have to wonder with regard to tobacco if it has entirely escaped universal notice that George Burns made it to a century smoking 8-10 pretty crusty Maduros a day. Thus beating, though not by much, fellow cigar fanatics Milton Berle, Groucho Marx and too many to name here. Oh well, maybe they had the good prescient sense to abstain from salt altogether.

  • Kevyn Bodman

    I like salt.
    That on its own is sufficient reason for me to use it.

    I like Krispy Kreme doughnuts too,and eat quite a lot of them.
    And for 9 weeks a year I drink far more than 21 units of alcohol a week.
    I am going to continue to do all those things.

    I do not care if anyone disapproves,and I do not care if these behaviours hasten my death.

    The Righteous can Go.Away.

  • Brian, follower of Deornoth

    The Enemy is the State.

    Same as it always was.

  • On further reflection:

    Has it occurred to anyone else here that there may be very good and scientifically valid reasons for technocrats to wish the public out of the habit of taking anything with a pinch of salt?

  • John B

    Brad says:
    But these folks always want to use a sledgehammer to kill a fly and advocate mass behavioral replacement from on high, even for those who have nothing to fear.

    And that of course is the thing. They’re not too bothered about the fly. They want to use the sledgehammer and advocate mass behavioural replacement from on high.
    Same with all of the agendas. It is about control.

  • “population-based salt-reduction strategies”….

    I love it, I just love it, how these indelibly-awful people just keep on, and on, and on, humourlessly coming up with these formulaic phrases, that hide so much while sounding so unalarming….

    You could argue that one particular population-based salt-reduction strategy was the Final Solution itself. It certainly reduced the amount of salt consumed by all those now-dead people, and prevented all that irritating cost of Prussian-style State health care building up.

    But I expect that so far in their minds, all it means is “choice-editing” a-la-Madeleine Bunting and George Monbiot.

  • Dear God. They will NEVER leave us the hell alone, will they?

  • Daveon

    Technically speaking the problem is how an individuals cardiac system reacts to Sodium. As my GP puts it Sodium is a great cardio-vascular restrictor which, if you’ve a tedency towards High Blood Pressure will make it worse.

    To be fair salt does get over used in flavouring stuff anyway, probably because it is cheap. Having grown up in a Irish Household my father and his sisters believed that salt was the only flavour and I am and always have been light on the stuff.

    Now… chilli and garlic? They’re real flavourings.

  • David Gillies

    Salt is more than a flavouring agent. It is an integral component of many recipes and messing about with quantities stops those recipes from working. For example, a pinch of salt in scrambled eggs before they are cooked prevents premature protein coagulation and gives the eggs a better texture. The salt added at the table is for flavour. Similarly, bread needs salt to regulate the rising process, and its reduction is why the quality of bread has in so many cases deteriorated in recent years. This isn’t merely heavy-handed prodnosing, it’s gastronomic illiteracy.

  • As if they could care any less.

  • Marco Polo

    Water’s good for you, right? How long before they make drinking water compulsory? (Scenario: a roadblock spot check on personal hydration levels. Police: “Your dehydrated. Step out of the vehicle. You’re comin’ alonga me.”)

  • Derek Buxton

    Another scare story this week, will they never stop. Mind you, I do wonder if these”scientists” ever use a lab., seems that they all spend the day on a computer with dodgy algorithms. Just like AGW I suppose, think of an answer and then think up a formula to give the “right” answer.

    What did happen to the £1billion swine flu jabs that no one wants?

  • Water’s good for you, right? How long before they make drinking water compulsory?

    The US newspaper columnist Mike Royko wrote a column many years ago about a company that felt it needed to have a document on the dangers of water, one of the many chemical compounds it used, due to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations. One of the lines in the document read

    “Effects of overexposure: None known”.

    As Royko aceribically commented, these people had apparently never heard of what the Chicago police refer to as a “floater”….

  • Nuke Gray

    Water is NOT good for you! Have you seen what fish do in it? And have you seen what it can do to cars? And did you know it causes rust in metals? Cold versions of water, called ‘ice’, are sold as drugs to gulible teenagers! Stay away from water, man!!! Stick to beer!

  • Laird

    There’s a whole website on the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide (aka water). Here’s a small sample:

    “Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) is a colorless and odorless chemical compound, also referred to by some as Dihydrogen Oxide, Hydrogen Hydroxide, Hydronium Hydroxide, or simply Hydric acid. Its basis is the highly reactive hydroxyl radical, a species shown to mutate DNA, denature proteins, disrupt cell membranes, and chemically alter critical neurotransmitters. The atomic components of DHMO are found in a number of caustic, explosive and poisonous compounds such as Sulfuric Acid, Nitroglycerine and Ethyl Alcohol.”

    Clearly it needs to be banned!

  • Alasdair

    Laird – every so often, local legislative bodies in the US debate banning Dihydrogen Monoxide – and they usually stop debating when *someone* finally can’t hold in the laughter and points out that it is water …

    “In March 2004, Aliso Viejo, California almost considered banning the use of foam containers at city-sponsored events because dihydrogen monoxide is part of their production. A paralegal had asked the city council to put it on the agenda; he later attributed it to poor research. The law was pulled from the agenda before it could come to a vote, but not before the city received a raft of bad publicity.” (grin)