The science was settled on salt, or at least the talking points were - less was better, and the typical American consumed too much.
Pour on the Salt? New Research Suggests More Is OK
BY JUDY SILVERMAN AND LISA TOLIN
New research suggests that healthy people can eat about twice the amount of salt that’s currently recommended — or about as much as most people consume anyway. The controversial findings could potentially undercut widespread public health messages about salt.
An international study of more than 100,000 people published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that while there is a relationship between salt intake and high blood pressure, if you don’t already have high blood pressure and you’re not over 60 or eating way too much salt, salt won’t have much impact on your blood pressure.
In fact, people who consumed 3,000 to 6,000 milligrams per day had a lower risk of death and cardiovascular events than those who had more than 6,000 mg or less than 3,000 mg.
Oh, no - another Big Government dietary fail?!? The WSJ also managed to find the lead. However, dead-enders such as the LA Times and NPR led with the conventional wisdom and only lit the candle of truth late in their coverage. Here is NPR:
Death By Salt? New Study Finds Too Much Sodium Is A Global Killer
by Allison Aubrey
Americans are accustomed to being nagged about salt. We're told we consume too much — particularly from processed foods. And that all this salt can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.
Turns out it's the same story most places around the globe. Worldwide, people consume an average of 3,950 milligrams of sodium a day, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. And though there are regional daily differences, ranging from about 2,000 milligrams to 5,500 milligrams, the global average is nearly double what the World Health Organization recommends.
This salt overload is taking its toll. The study concludes that about 1.65 million deaths from cardiovascular disease each year can be attributed to sodium consumption.
Wait a second! Are these people reporting on the same study? Well, no - three related studies were published simultaneously and diligent readers will learn a lot as they press on. First, where is the "too much salt" belt?
So, where are the global hot spots, when it comes to death by salt? This study finds that (see figure 2 and figure 4) the proportion of deaths from heart attacks and strokes attributable to sodium ranges quite a bit. In Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, about 10 percent of cardiovascular deaths (among people 70 and younger) are linked to high salt intake.
But there's a wide band in the study map, stretching from Eastern Europe all the way across into Central Asia and East Asia. There, the percentage of cardiovascular deaths attributed to sodium consumption jumps up to 20 to 25 percent.
"What seems to be linking those countries [in this band] ... is that this is the Old Silk Road [trade] route, where people traveled many distances and needed salt to preserve their food," says Mozaffarian. Centuries later, this tradition of eating salt-preserved foods remains strong.
So this story is especially topical to their listeners living along the Old Silk Road. So what was NBC going an about with salt being OK here in the US?
Not all researchers are convinced that consuming high levels of sodium is harmful. In fact, the same issue of theNew England Journal of Medicinepublished another study that questions whether recommendations for low sodium consumption are valid for everyone.
The study found the link between sodium and cardiovascular disease is strongest when blood pressure is elevated — and that potassium, a nutrient found in fruits, vegetables and beans, can help lower blood pressure. The study suggests that if you don't have high blood pressure, it might be okay to consumer 3,500 milligrams of sodium a day, as is typical among Americans.
The author of this study, Dr. Salim Yusuf of McMaster University in Canada, told the AP, that it's better to focus on healthy patterns of eating instead of a single element. "That is something everyone can rally around," Yusuf told the AP.
Oh. So the takeaway is that Mayor Bloomberg ought to be leading Kazakstan. Works for me.
The LA Times went with the scare headline:
Excess sodium intake linked to 1.65 million deaths annually
The WSJ seized the day:
Low-Salt Diets May Pose Health Risks, Study Finds
Findings Are Latest Challenge to Benefits of Aggressively Low Sodium Targets
Something for everyone, especially the many folks seeking affirmation rather than information.
WebMD includes a pictorial of the new Nos, which include salt, saturated fat, solid and trans fat, added sugars, fast food, and refined grains.
What is this, the Dietary Legion of Doom? Instead of a clear message identifying a villain we have this muddled soultion cobbled together by a committee, with so many bad guys that the public won't have any idea who the real dietary villains are.
And to compound the puzzlement, check out this ignorance from the Times reporter:
And given the level of obesity in America, some question if anyone is paying attention.
Yike! The whole point of the Gary Taubes book is that back in the 70's and 80's the medical establishment coalesced behind the idea that dietary fat led to fat in the bloodstream, and from there to heart disease. Here is TIME magazine in 1984 and the NY Times very ownJane Brody in 1987 ranting against cholesterol. (And FatHead has agreat riff on Ms. Brody's own struggle with cholesterol.)
And, per Taubes, people did listen, at least enough to embrace the message that carohydrates are heart-healthy.
And how has that all worked out?
The good news is, the government scarcely has any credibility left to squander.