Thursday, March 12, 2009

Getting Re-Started

I'll be posting mainly on news and opinion that interests me.

These days I'm training for a half marathon. The clinic I've joined includes guest speakers on nutrition, injuries and other topics, and I've been doing some reading on these topics for the past several years. There is a lot of science, with actual evidence, on topics of interest to runners, but there is also some controversy, especially on nutrition. So possible topics include running, nutrition, health studies.

I used to blog elsewhere, mainly on politics including the Iraq war. I believe the archived material can still be found, although the word search does not work.
I'm 53, recently started on medication for high blood pressure. It's unusual, although not unheard of, for someone who works out as much as I do to have high blood pressure. (Besides running three or four times a week, I swim three times and do a bit of walking to catch buses). My doctor didn't say much about salt, etc.--she just said briefly it may be genetic--but the conventional wisdom is that a high-salt diet can lead to high blood pressure, heart trouble or stroke, etc., and a low-salt diet can help to avoid these things.

Imagine my surprise at reading that a low-salt diet may either have no effect at all, or may actually contribute to high blood pressure etc.

Statements that are constantly repeated: connections between salt--high blood pressure--heart disease--x number of deaths per year--have never been supported by good studies. On the other hand, there are excellent studies to support the following claims:

1. Salt is essential for good health--it benefits the body in a number of ways, some of which have been identified only recently.

2. There is no better measure of the right amount of salt for a person than what that person actually chooses.

3. Claims about how much salt we eat in junk food, etc. are generally exaggerated.

4. Good stu
dies show either that a low salt diet makes no difference to health, or that it actually increases one's risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and other problems. Why a low-salt diet in itself would cause these problems is still not clear, but see #1 above.

5. The attack on salt by a
government agency is probably an attempt to get people to cut down on the junk food they eat. Since junk food tends to be salty, the salt is treated like a proxy for "unhealthy food." Yet the result is a campaign that flies in the face of science, and puts the health of many people at risk.

Hmmm... my diet has been somewhat low-salt for a few years, and I've recently begun taking medication for high blood pressure....

Via Ground Rounds, 2/24/2009: The Blog that Ate Manhattan: Grand Rounds

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