Saturday, June 20, 2009

Science and Low-Salt Diets

One developing rant for me is the widespread concern that ordinary food, especially supermarket food and fast food, is bad for you.

The poor old Globe and Mail is jumping on the bandwagon of "identifying specific types of food to avoid." First up: salt.

This is junk science. A population that has high blood pressure or hypertension is also found to be consuming what seems a large amount of salt. (More than "recommended"--but no one knows how much salt we really need, or how much is ideal, other than the fact that we need a considerable amount to survive.)For this finding to be meaningful, you'd have to discover whether the population had other factors in common, unrelated to salt consumption, that might account for high blood pressure, in fact you would have to understand a lot about high blood pressure.

Is there good evidence that a high-salt diet puts you at more risk of heart attack and stroke than a low-fat diet? No. How about overall mortality: worse with high salt? No.

It's even possible that the effects, if any, of high salt intake can be cancelled out by high potassium intake.

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