Salt – Another scientific shibboleth slayed

We’ve been told by our ‘betters’ that salt is bad for us. We need to cut down. Scientists say so.

Turns out that like most scientists they were wrong, which is why I challenge scientists and why they try to sue me into silence.

For more than 40 years, we’ve been told eating too much salt is killing us. Doctors say it’s as bad for our health as smoking or not exercising, and government guidelines limit us to just under a teaspoon a day.

We’re told not to cook with it and not to sprinkle it on our meals. The white stuff is not just addictive, goes the message – it’s deadly. Too much of it causes high blood pressure, which in turn damages our hearts. We must learn to live – joylessly, flavourlessly but healthily – without it, reports the Daily Mail.

Well, I’m here to tell you that all of that is wrong. As a leading cardiovascular research scientist – based at Saint Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute, Missouri – I’ve contributed extensively to health policy and medical literature.

I am associate editor of the British Medical Journal’s Open Heart, published in partnership with the British Cardiovascular Society, and I sit on the editorial advisory board of several other medical journals.

Seems well qualified…wonder what Boyd Swinburn has to say about his credentials compared with his own. He has pushed for salt taxes as well as sugar taxes.

In my work, I’ve examined data from more than 500 medical papers and studies about salt. And this is what I’ve learned: there was never any sound scientific evidence to support this low salt idea.

What’s more, as I explain in my new book, eating too little of it can cause insulin resistance, increased fat storage and may even increase the risk of diabetes – not to mention decreasing our sex drive.

I can see several reasons to start increasing salt intake right there.

Current daily guidelines limit you to 2.4g of sodium, which translates to 6g of salt (or sodium chloride) or slightly less than a teaspoonful.

If you have high blood pressure, or belong to a group considered to be at greater risk of developing it – such as being over 60 or Afro-Caribbean – doctors even advise you to cut your intake to two-thirds of a teaspoon of salt per day.

Yet salt is an essential nutrient that our bodies depend on to live. And those limits go against all our natural instincts.

When people are allowed as much salt as they fancy, they tend to settle at about a teaspoon-and-a-half a day. This is true all over the world, across all cultures, climates and social backgrounds.

Right, so can they all piss off now? They won’t of course and all the science is based on several frauds…not unlike climate science.

The dangerous myth that salt raises blood pressure began more than 100 years ago, with French scientists Ambard and Beauchard. They based their findings on studies of just six patients.

Six! Bloody frogs.

Successive researchers misinterpreted and misused their data, building on a theory that earned media attention without any solid foundation in fact.

In the early Fifties, at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, Dr Lewis Dahl was determined to make science fit his own preconceptions.

Uh huh…Where have we heard this before.

A man of ‘strong convictions’, he was a proponent of racial theories that claimed Japanese people had high levels of hypertension while Inuit tribes did not – and that this was due to the amount of salt in their diets.

He proposed to prove this with experiments on rodents.

However, as even Dr Dahl was obliged to concede, normal rats are not sensitive to salt. It does nothing to their blood pressure.

So he decided to selectively modify them through in-breeding over several generations to create what are now known as “Dahl salt-sensitive rats”.

That’s right: Dahl created salt-sensitive rats in a lab and then used them to prove his hypothesis that salt affected blood pressure.

Climate science? Predictions? Models? Fraud.

Dahl popularised the notion that salt is nothing but a flavouring we add to food. He cited medical studies that, he claimed, were proof humans could survive on a quarter of the recommended levels.

But a closer look at the papers he promoted is alarming: one 1945 experiment into a low-salt diet may have killed people.

One patient placed on a restricted salt regime died soon afterwards, and another sustained circulatory collapse, due to inadequate supplies of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues – a classic symptom of salt deprivation.

One of Dahl’s most dramatic experiments involved giving human baby food with high salt content to his special salt-sensitive rats. It killed them, which Dahl proclaimed as proof that baby food could be lethal for human infants, too.

Of course, human babies are much larger than rats, and the salt-sensitive rats had been genetically engineered to suffer from hypertension.

But based partly on this research, the Committee on Nutrition at the American Academy of Paediatrics concluded that infants were consuming too much sodium, and manufacturers began to lower the salt content in all kinds of food.

The link between high blood pressure and salt was established in the public mind, on the most spurious of pretexts.

The problem is these ratbags are never held to account. They stand there all high and mighty telling us they have science degrees and they know best. They don’t and are often wrong.

There is some bad news for ‘Salt Tax’ Swinburn.

We may discover that low-salt guidelines have created more heart disease than they ever prevented.

They may even have been a contributing factor in the greatest public health challenge of our time: the rising epidemic of diabetes, caused in part by an increasingly common, yet little-known, phenomenon called “internal starvation”.

To understand this, we need to begin by looking at the obesity epidemic.

The conventional explanation for this is an imbalance between the consumption of calories and our expenditure of energy – in other words, we eat more than we burn off.

We’re told to eat less and move more, though it’s obvious this strategy isn’t working for everyone.

Consuming too little salt can set into motion an unfortunate cascade of changes that result in insulin resistance, an increase in sugar cravings, an out-of-control appetite and ultimately internal starvation, sometimes known as hidden cellular semi-starvation, which promotes weight gain.

Someone who appears massively overweight on the outside may be literally starving on the inside.

When you start restricting your salt intake, your body will do anything to try to hold on to it.

Unfortunately, one of its main defence mechanisms is to increase insulin levels, which it does by becoming more resistant to insulin itself. The body is then less able to shuttle glucose into cells.

That means more and more insulin is secreted to control blood glucose. This keeps the body’s stored fat and protein reserves locked away. The fat cannot be converted into energy.

To make matters worse, salt restriction also stimulates hormones such as renin, angiotensin and aldosterone. They help retain the ebbing salt levels, but they also increase the absorption of fat.

So a low-salt diet doesn’t just force the body to pile on fat, but prevents it from being burned off. No wonder ‘Eat Less Move More’ can make no difference for some.

And yet Swinburn pushes for less salt and salt taxes…and less sugar and more sugar taxes.

It gets worse. If you slash salt intake dramatically, you could also develop an iodine deficiency, since salt is our best source of iodine. We need iodine for proper thyroid function, without which the metabolic rate may slow down.

A slower metabolic rate results in the body storing more fat, particularly in the organs, which in turn promotes insulin resistance. Once again, weight gain results.

Plus, low-salt diets increase the risk of overall dehydration. That’s a problem because well-hydrated cells consume less energy.

Dehydrated cells leave you feeling exhausted, which encourages you to consume more calories – which are immediately translated into weight gain.

Exercise now seems unappealing. Your body cannot access its stored energy and so the brain switches into conservation mode, trying to hang on to every calorie.

Even though weight is piling on, every function in the body is behaving as though it’s fighting to survive a full-scale famine.

Oh so…it is his pals that may have caused the obesity epidemic he is determined to stamp out.

So, now we know Boyd Swinburn was and is wrong on salt intake. I wonder perhaps if he has considered he might just be wrong on sugar as well. Or will he just keep on suing people who hold troughers like him to account.

 – NZ Herald

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