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Monday, May 30, 2016

It's time to stop the war on salt

So, New York City has now received permission to fine chain restaurants for serving up too much salt, or for not using icons to warn customers of salty food. This ruling allows me to segue into a topic I've been meaning to get into for quite some time: What if they are wrong? What if too much salt is not harmful? If salt is proven to be safe, will New York change this ruling?

This subject kind of touches home with me because my mom suffered for many years with hypertension, and still does. She used to have to drink these horrid tasting drinks to keep her blood pressure in check. I think they were potassium drinks, but I'd have to ask her. My mom was also encouraged not to eat foods that contained salt, so she never added salt to anything she cooked. She never ate foods like potato chips, and used a salt substitute.

The science makes sense. The theory has it that eating salt raises the level of sodium chloride in your bloodstream, and this salt is absorbed into cells lining the bloodstream. This, in turn, causes these vessels to constrict, thereby raising blood pressure.

Even before I became a respiratory therapist, which was prior to 1995, I remember reading studies showing that, while this theory seems to make sense, it might not be true. Since then various studies show that cells only take in so much sodium chloride, and what is not used is simply excreted by kidneys. So, the evidence seems to show that too much salt does not cause hypertension.

In fact, even more recent studies show that, to the contrary, too little salt is more likely to cause hypertension than too much salt. Too little salt increases your risk of stroke and heart disease, not too much salt.

So, this brings me back to my original question: will this new evidence cause New York to change this ruling? Will evidence showing that too much salt will not cause high blood pressure, and that too little salt might, cause progressives to stop their push to limit salt intake? Or is there so much at stake here that they will not stop their quest no matter what the evidence shows?

Recently I was diagnosed with hypertension. My doctor prescribed a blood pressure medicine for me, told me to take one pill every day and then he said, "Well, you should probably limit your salt intake. In fact, the evidence seems to show it doesn't matter. So, if you want to continue to add salt to food to make it taste better, and your blood pressure is under control, go for it!"

So, my doctor seems to have caught on to modern wisdom. He understands that while the science shows one thing, analytical data shows another. This is one more old medical myth that appears to be out the window, and yet progressives continue to push for laws to make food taste worse. So, my argument is for progressives to stop the war on salt, and find something else to do with their time.

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