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John Block Reports from Washington

RSS By: John Block, AgWeb.com

John Block has dedicated his professional career to the fields of agriculture, food and health.

To Salt or Not?

Aug 20, 2014

What should we be eating? We are getting hammered from every angle about what is good for us versus what is bad. Too many carbs, stay away from red meat, don’t trust GE foods, sugar will make you fat. The government wants to regulate.

We have been through this before but never with the intensity that we face today. I remember when they said, "Butter is bad for you. Eat margarine." Now, it is the other way around. At one time, some critics advised to not eat bacon because when you fry it, it is a carcinogen. How can the average consumer know what to do?

The World Health Organization, following the advice of a Tufts University research study, advised that we cut our salt consumption in half. The salt we eat leads to 1.65 million deaths annually.

Excessive sodium results in high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. Our Food and Drug Administration plans to work with our food companies to get them to cut back the salt. FDA argues that we should consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. High levels are associated with high blood pressure. The average U.S. sodium daily consumption is 3,400 milligrams. Simply put – we are consuming too much salt.

However, we have a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine which tells us that if we cut back on our salt we will have a heart attack. The new study involved 100,000 people in 17 countries over 3 years. They found that individuals that consumed the low level of sodium recommended by the FDA had a 27% higher risk of death.

The new study suggesting that we aren’t consuming too much sodium today contradicts the position of the American Heart Association, the World Health Organization, and FDA.

Perhaps USDA’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee should consider making some adjustment in their recommendations – that is, if "they are worth their salt."

As for me, I’ll still salt my steak and eggs and, to be safe, I’ll have another piece of bacon and a glass of red wine.

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