Salt, Healthy? Why It Might No Longer Be Public Enemy No. 1

For decades, we've been told to eat less salt for lower blood pressure—but could this advice be harming, rather than helping, our health?

By Gary Taubes from The New York Times

Salt, Healthy? Why It Might No Longer Be Public Enemy No. 1
Editor’s Note: It’s hardly surprising that this article came under fire from the public health community after it was published. Salt has become a controversial topic as more conflicting research questions whether too much, or too little, is harmful. Critics point to flaws in some of the research this article cites, including studies that are too short-term, that over-rely on one-day measures of sodium excretion as a meaningful measure of salt intake, and that draw conclusions for the population as a whole from studies of people with specific health conditions. In November, the American Heart Association released a new analysis supporting its recommendation that all Americans reduce their salt intake.

But as Michael Alderman, MD, editor of the American Journal of Hypertension, told the New York Times last May, one of the problems with the salt debate is that “all the studies are inadequate.” The kind of research that could provide an answer once and for all—a large study in which people are randomly assigned to a low-sodium diet or not and then followed for years to measure health outcomes—may never happen, due to the expense, as well as logistical and ethical challenges.

Reader’s Digest looks for the most thought-provoking health reads in the land. Gary Taubes, a science writer who has famously challenged conventional weight-loss wisdom, now raises important questions about how health public policy regarding salt was established. As the debate evolves, William B. White, MD, president of the American Society of Hypertension, offers this guideline: Salt intake is likely not a concern for healthy people. “But for those with high blood pressure, heart disease, or kidney disease, there’s enough evidence to show that too much salt is toxic,” he says. If you’re concerned about how much salt you should be eating, don’t make any major changes without first talking to your doctor.—Lauren Gelman

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  • Your Comments

    • dana matherson

      salt is amazing, especially in angus burgers from mcdonalds on friday’s after school

    • Tom Thompson

      I was born in the 20s and during that period food for the working classes was basic and wholesome and didn’t contain any additives as they do today and we didn’t have the facilities with i.e. fridge/freezers,microwaves etc.and all foodstuffs was virtually organic with no forced growing and salt was used daily This continued on throughout wwii where many foods were dried out to powder form to preserve longer. During all that period and into the 50s. This was the ‘ Matchstick’ generation of hard manual workers and therefore salt never caused a health problem. Today, in the main, we have the ‘Push Button’ generation with a shorter working week.I started work at the age of 14 and worked 48 hours a week plus compulsory overtime, Many of that generation are now in the 90s plus. I have never seen so much obesity as we have in the the Western World to day. As a youth entering the R A F during wwii I weighed 10st.8lbs.. To day I weigh 10st. 12lbs.
      I remember one of my old schoolteacher’s saying ” how many teeth do you have ?….32 and that’s how many times you chew your food before you swallow it, you are not stoking a boiler and if you do you cant enjoy the taste”. To day I am still a slow eater and the last to leave the table.
                                                                                                            Tom Thompson

    • Clay

      Most importantly, all salts are not created equal.  Cheap, over-processed table salt has dangerous additives which the FDA does not require be disclosed (due to crooked politics).  Only NATURAL salts should be consumed.  So make sure your foods are made with natural salts and ask your restaurants what salt they use.  You can guess what chain restaurants use…  

      • Stevensamuels1

        salt is salt dude, it comes from mines which were formed from prehistoric lakes and has no ADDITIVES other than something to make it flow.    ” natural salt  ” or  ” sea salt ” are great scams to get you to pay ten times the amount of table salt .  i bet you buy ” bottled water ” too thinking you are getting something special . exactly what ” dangerous additives ” do you think are in salt ?

    • Clay


    • Guest

      there once was a supposition that some black americans had a worse reaction to salt than others . what happened to that idea ? i think it was related to b/p and heart and cad as well.

    • Zzlatz

      BigPharma financial interests are involved here as well.
      These criminals knew very well what will be consequences of avoiding salt: more deceases and of course more medications buying. This is what they wanted. this is where they put their money – to bribe the “health” “authorities” to convince the public that salt is an enemy.
      and it’s not only with salt.

    • Ken Nichols

      Why do people listen to what the government tells them is healthy? Our bodies were designed to help us balance out everything. Eat what you want, but eat everything in moderation. If you crave salt, have something salty – just not EVERY day. If you crave salad, listen to your body and have some – you probably NEED it. Same with fruit, meat, eggs, milk, carbs, etc. Your body will tell you what it is short on. Too much of ANYTHING – no matter how healthy it is claimed to be — is not good for you. A varied diet is always best, but you don’t have to have some of everything every single day, to the point where you actually WORRY about not having a particular food. It’s OK to vary it over a longer term – a week maybe. If veggies seem distasteful today, skip em. Just keep in mind that your body will want to “catch up” on the crunchy green stuff soon.