Government health guidelines are always an interesting nexus of science and politics. The long standing guideline to avoid salt was one such SNAFU. Why? A new study shows that avoiding salt doesn’t help, so in the end that our government created a low sodium myth was always more politics than science.
Our government is getting quite a reputation for creating health guidelines that aren’t really healthy. One recent case in point was the low fat mantra created by a politically connected health researcher and the U.S. Government that likely birthed millions of new diabetics consuming processed food stripped of it’s fat, but loaded with sugar. That same 1970s era guideline to avoid saturated fats like butter had the net effect of creating margarine and transfats, substances so unhealthy that they’re now banned by the same government that launched the trend! The most recent unhealthy food guideline to go down the tubes is the low sodium fad, which just went down in a large, well done study.
We’ve actually known for a long-time that limiting the salt intake of the American public was a dumb idea. Having said that, once manufacturers invested in low sodium foods and those companies had lobbyists, the health guideline got entrenched. In addition, we still have armies of dietitians educated to believe that salt is evil, so expect this myth to take awhile to fully end.
The new study looked at more then twenty six hundred elderly people and recorded their salt intake while following them for a decade. Lots of the participants died during that time and the researchers examined whether death or cause of death had anything to do with their salt intake. In the end, there was no statistically significant association between death, heart failure, or a heart attack and eating more or less salt.
The upshot? I feel like a social drinker at the end of prohibition-pass the salt shaker! It’s time for the salt and health myth to end. It’s also time for the government to get out of the health guidelines game, as the recommendations are oftentimes more politics than good medicine.