Vol. 16 March 1, 2010 What’s Good for Your Heart? Less Salt, Less Fat…or NOT?

Modest reductions in dietary salt could substantially reduce cardiovascular events and medical costs
and should be a public health target” (1)
– New England Journal of Medicine, Feb. 18, 2010

.“The human body is very adaptable. When you drink water and ingest salt your kidneys
keep what you need and excrete the rest.” (2)
– Nathan Talbot, MD, 1969, Harvard Professor of Pediatrics,
expert  in research in life-raft survival physiology

“Whether or not salt is bad for your health is still controversial. One camp says that salt is part of eating healthy.
The other says that salt causes high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks. Both may be right.”
– Salt: A World History, Mark Kurlansky, Penguin Press, 2002

First known warning that salt could lead to high blood pressure and  a stroke: 600 AD, “Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine” (3)

Date that American Medical Association Newsletter cautioned that the “average American consumes two to three times the recommended amount of salt”: Dec. 24, 2007

Average salt consumption per day of American men and women in 2005-2006 respectively: 10.4 grams / 7.3 grams

  • “Eating that much salt is not a problem for people with healthy kidneys. The research supporting a reduction in salt [to reduce cardiovascular disease] is far less consistent than that supporting weight loss, smoking cessation, and exercise.” Hillel Cohen, MD, Albert Einstein College of Medicine (4)

Daily intake of salt recommended for healthy adults by U.S. government:  5.8 grams (a little over 2 teaspoons)

Recommended salt intake limit for adults over 40, blacks, or people with high blood pressure: 3.8 grams (about 1 1/2 teaspoon)

“Ideal” limit of daily salt intake according to the president of the American Heart Association because “everyone is at risk for heart disease”: less than 1/2 teaspoon (4)

Estimated amount of reduced annual health care costs in U.S. if salt intake was reduced by 3 grams ( about 1 teaspoon) a day: $10-24 Billion (5)

Number of big, basic assumptions that this figure is based on: 2

  1. salt reduction lowers blood pressure
  2. lower blood pressure lowers risk of stroke and heart disease

Per cent of salt in the U.S. diet that comes from added salt at the table: 20%

Per cent of salt in U.S. diet that comes from processed food: 80%

Year that Morton Salt Company added magnesium carbonate to salt to make it pour more easily: 1911

  • Who can forget that little girl under the umbrella? “When it rains it pours.”

Year that a book boosting sea salt reported that salt companies REMOVE magnesium from salt to make it flow more freely and to make money selling the magnesium: 2005 (6)

“There is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is independently associated with an increased risk for heart disease… Specific nutrients used to replace saturated fats may not reduce, and may increase, risk of cardiovascular disease. More data is needed to elucidate those effects.” (7)

Number of studies/subjects/years of followup reviewed by this mega-analysis to support the above quotation: 21 studies / 347,747 subjects / 5-23 years  (7)

Number of grams of sugar and calories in a cup of LOW-FAT fruit flavored yogurt: 46 grams sugar / 233 calories

Number of same in a cup of WHOLE MILK yogurt (contains fat) with unsweetened frozen berries: 24 grams sugar / 230 calories (8)

1.Projected Effect of Dietary Salt Reductions on Future Cardiovascular Disease, NEJM 362;7, Feb. 18, 2010, 590-599
2.Personal communication from the “Chief” to us pediatric residents
3. Salt: A World History, Mark Kurlansky, Penguin Press, 2002
4. The Salt Shake, Kenneth Weintrub, Boston Globe, Feb. 1, 2010, G 4
5.Compelling Evidence for Public Health Action to Reduce Salt Intake, Editorial, NEJM 362;7, Feb. 18, 2010, 650-652
6.Sea Salt’s Hidden Powers, Jacques de Langre, PhD, 2005
7. Am J Clin Nutrition 91:535-546, March 2010, R. Krauss, et al.(online Jan 2010)
8. Boston Globe, Feb. 24, 2010, A. Boomer, G21

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