Questioning Bloomie's Salt Cutback

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There's an interesting Op-Ed in the Times today questioning the wisdom of Mayor Bloomberg and the NYC Department of Health's campaign against salt--and the piece doesn't question the lower-salt initiative in the name of culinary freedom but health.

Michael Alderman, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, writes that such a significant change in citizens' sodium consumption--Bloomie's proposal calls for reducing salt content in processed and restaurant food by as much as 50% over the next 10 years--might possibly have adverse consequences. More after the jump.




He writes:

Throughout history, efforts have been made to reform the human diet by changing individual characteristics of it, and some of these changes have had unexpected harmful effects. In the 1950s, for instance, pregnant women were urged to strictly limit their weight gain to avoid pre-eclampsia, a syndrome characterized by high blood pressure, fluid retention and kidney problems. Enough women apparently followed this advice that the number of underweight babies -- and of infant deaths, some attributable to low birth weight -- increased....

Salt -- sodium chloride -- is only one of many essential elements in a sound diet. In places where populations have free access to salt, healthy people typically consume about five to eight grams (giving them two to four grams of sodium) per day. When groups of people reduce their daily sodium intake by one to two grams, their average blood pressure falls. But there is tremendous variation among individuals. For most people, wide swings in dietary sodium consumption don't affect blood pressure, and for some, blood pressure actually rises when they lower their salt intake.

Alderman also cites the mixed results of decreasing sodium intake in nine observational studies. In four of the studies, reduced salt consumption was actually associated with an increase in death and disability from heart attack and strokes. In one study focusing on obes epeople, more salt was associated with cardiovascular health, while the remaining four studies found no direct tie between salt consumption and health.

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