Monday, September 29, 2014
The government medical establishment has been proclaiming for decades that Americans consume too much salt, saying it raises the risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and stroke. The USDA, the Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization, the American Heart Association and others have long set daily sodium targets of 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams or lower, compared to the U. S. average of 3,400 milligrams. The WSJ notes “The FDA is pressuring food manufacturers and restaurants to remove salt from their recipes and menus, while the public health lobby is still urging the agency to go further and regulate sodium chloride [salt] as if it were poison.”
Do we really need government to protect us from this “danger”? There is a growing body of evidence that government policies on salt are more dangerous than the salt Americans devour. A report last year from the Institute of Medicine found cutting sodium intake as recommended did not reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Two studies in the New England Journal of Medicine in August 2014 found it actually poses a health hazard.
One study tracked 100,000 people in 17 countries for nearly four years. It covered the general population, not just people at high risk from heart disease. It found that people consuming 3,000 to 6,000 milligrams of sodium a day had the lowest risk of heart problems, stroke or death. Higher or lower levels of sodium increased the risk. Note that Americans' average consumption, 3,400 milligrams, is right in the healthiest range. The study's leader, Dr. Salim Yusuf of McMaster University in Ontario, said, “Most people should stay right where they are.” The study found those who consumed fewer than 3,000 milligrams of sodium daily had a 27% higher risk of death or serious event such as a heart attack or stroke than those whose intake was 3,000 to 6,000 milligrams.
Risks increased with intake above 6,000 milligrams, but not as much as you might expect. Those in the healthiest category, 3,000 to 6,000 milligrams, experienced a 3.1% rate of heart attack, heart failure or stroke. The rate rose to 3.2% above 6,000 milligrams and 3.3% above 7,000 milligrams.
The second study concluded there were 1.65 million deaths worldwide from consumption over 2,000 milligrams of sodium, compared to 0.5 million deaths from consumption over 4,000 milligrams. The study was led by Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian of Tufts University and the Harvard School of Public Health. It examined dozens of studies of sodium intake, calculated the relationship to high blood pressure, and then the links of high blood pressure to cardiovascular deaths.
“There is not a single study, not one, showing benefit for having sodium intake of less than 2,300 milligrams,” said Brian Strom, chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Services. He wasn't involved in the latest studies but chaired the Institute of Medicine panel that reported on sodium last year.
Sodium is a nutrient that is a key to many cellular functions, many of which would likely “function on a lower level” with low sodium levels, says Niels Graudel, an internal medicine specialist at Copenhagen University Hospital who wasn't involved in the study. “Too little sodium could trigger a hormonal response from the renin-angiotensin system that regulates blood pressure,” said the researchers. Also, Dr. Graudel said very low sodium is associated with higher blood fats called lipids.
Short-term studies have found that low-salt diets have helped people already diagnosed with hypertension or borderline high blood pressure to lower it. “But studies that show the resulting blood-pressure reduction in such patients reduces risk of death or serious cardiovascular problems are lacking.”
This is the third and last of a series of three postings on how government food regulations intended to improve the diet of Americans have been consistent long-term failures. They have been not only futile but detrimental to the health of millions of people.
In the first of the series we explained how the government for over a half century perpetuated the fraudulent ideas about saturated fat in foods raising cholesterol and, consequently, heart attacks. Government promoted eating more pasta, grains, fruit and starchy vegetables to replace meat, eggs and cheese. “The problem is that carbohydrates break down into glucose, which causes the body to release insulin—a hormone that is fantastically efficient at storing fat....Excessive carbohydrates lead not only to obesity but also, over time, to Type 2 diabetes and, very likely, heart disease.”
In the second of the series we explained how the federal school lunch program has made nutrition worse for children, leaving more of them unsatisfied and hungry. The program has resulted in fewer children drinking milk, many going without meals, and schools—even whole districts—dropping out of the program Enormous amounts of money are spent, and vast quantities of food are wasted while children go hungry and are buying more “junk” food to satisfy their hunger.