Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of 2012 - Gary Taubes: "Salt, We Misjudged You"

Have a little extra reading time during the holidays? Read a little of Gary Taubes's writing and your views on food may change irrevocably. Don't believe me? Start with this article from June.

Happy New Year.


Fat is bad for us. Cholesterol will kill you. Avoid salt.

The drums pounding these ideas into our collective consciousness (and subconsciousness) are incessant and omnipresent. Yet, as the journalist Gary Taubes continues to expertly show, they are only hypotheses that—to the detriment of our well-being—have morphed into accepted government-sanctioned beliefs.

Taubes's latest undressing is of the "avoid salt" mantra. In "Salt, We Misjudged You," which appeared in Sunday's New York Times, Taubes does everything but simply regurgitate what doctors, nutritionists, politicians, grandmothers, newscasters and the guy behind the deli counter describe as fact.

According to Taubes, not only is salt necessary for our survival, but restricting its intake can have fatal results. Yet, fat is bad for us, cholesterol will kill you, avoid salt . . .

From "Salt, We Misjudged You," which everyone should read and pass on:

"Salt consumption is said to raise blood pressure, cause hypertension and increase the risk of premature death. This is why the Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines still consider salt Public Enemy No. 1, coming before fats, sugars and alcohol. It’s why the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has suggested that reducing salt consumption is as critical to long-term health as quitting cigarettes.

"And yet, this eat-less-salt argument has been surprisingly controversial — and difficult to defend. Not because the food industry opposes it, but because the actual evidence to support it has always been so weak." 
"The idea that eating less salt can worsen health outcomes may sound bizarre, but it also has biological plausibility and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, too. A 1972 paper in The New England Journal of Medicine reported that the less salt people ate, the higher their levels of a substance secreted by the kidneys, called renin, which set off a physiological cascade of events that seemed to end with an increased risk of heart disease. In this scenario: eat less salt, secrete more renin, get heart disease, die prematurely.

"With nearly everyone focused on the supposed benefits of salt restriction, little research was done to look at the potential dangers. But four years ago, Italian researchers began publishing the results from a series of clinical trials, all of which reported that, among patients with heart failure, reducing salt consumption increased the risk of death.

"Those trials have been followed by a slew of studies suggesting that reducing sodium to anything like what government policy refers to as a 'safe upper limit' is likely to do more harm than good."
Please, read the entire article.

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