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Salt Institute Says Food Alarmists Hurt Important Nutrient

Armen Hareyan's picture

Ironically, just as solid science has confirmed that a quality overall diet is the key to good health, not a preoccupation with a single nutrient, food alarmists are stepping up their call for government regulation of an essential nutrient: salt.

At a press conference today, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) seemed oblivious to the new scientific findings. They singled out salt as the “single most harmful ingredient in our food supply.” CSPI termed salt “toxic”.

Mort Satin, a food scientist on staff at the Salt Institute, calls this rhetoric, “a preposterous claim about a nutrient that is our most important electrolyte. The countries that have recorded the best overall cardiac performance are those that consume the greatest amount of salt.”

“CSPI’s focus on removing a single nutrient can have harmful unintended consequences.
It delays the real solution, improving the quality of the American diet. We need a better, more balanced Mediterranean diet to reduce disease. Recent scientific evidence confirms that a quality diet rich in fruits and vegetables is essential. By the way, the Med diet contains 30-40% more salt than the American diet,” he said.

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Satin continued: “As anyone with hands-on experience knows, you cannot simply eliminate or reduce salt. It’s there to serve a necessary function and would have to replaced with an arsenal of synthetic chemical products that have never been tested for their interactions and toxicities at the levels at which they are projected to be consumed. Talk about ‘toxic.’ Sooner or later, a fuller understanding of their toxicities will be revealed, but no one, especially CSPI, will be around to take responsibility for the ill-conceived strategy that prompted them.”

Only a few days ago, the Salt Institute filed formal comments with the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee calling attention to two recent studies[i] by Canadian research teams which confirmed that overall diet quality, not individual foods, is the key to improving health and preventing chronic disease. The studies are consistent with the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) clinical trials which showed that a quality diet, without restrictions in dietary sodium, yielded reduced blood pressure. One study identified a simple, inexpensive and rapid test for diet quality: a 24-hour urine test for potassium. Almost as if they were responding to the CSPI barrage, the researchers examined sodium intake and found no evidence it is related to quality diets.

“So on one side you have scientific experts saying that the current salt levels of our diets do not reduce diet quality and that total diet is what’s important; on the other side extreme advocates are holding news conferences saying ‘forget total diet, slap a poison label on salt.’ Salt is a single, essential nutrient and a major component of our diets and, indeed, of our bodies,” summarized Salt Institute president Richard L. Hanneman.

The Salt Institute has urged the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to focus its attention on the association of dietary patterns with health improvements. It has highlighted the controversy among scientists and the lack of evidence of any health benefit for persons consuming diets lower in sodium or salt. “But the biggest deception and misdirection has been undertaken by those who would have Americans believe that a single nutrient, a single food or even a single meal has any health consequence whatsoever,” Hanneman concluded.

[i] [Note: the two referenced studies are Mente, et al “A Systematic Review of the Evidence Supporting a Causal Link Between Dietary Factors and Coronary Heart Disease” in the April 13 Archives of Internal Medicine (http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/169/7/659) and Mente et al “Urinary Potassium Is a Clinically Useful Test to Detect a Poor Quality Diet” in the April edition of the Journal of Nutrition (http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/abstract/139/4/743)].