NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

End the War on Salt

August 26, 2011

The Council of Better Business Bureaus recently rolled out new criteria for reducing the sodium, sugar and fat in children's food and beverages.  Seventeen companies are participating in the initiative, including the Campbell Soup Company, General Mills and Kraft Foods.  Many food manufacturers are working to preempt regulation by reducing the sodium content in their products at considerable cost -- costs that are being passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices, say Luke Pelican, a Google Policy Fellow, and Jacqueline Otto, a research assistant, at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Health writer Melinda Wenner Moyer has called for an end to the "war on salt," saying there is no conclusive evidence to warrant sweeping and intrusive mandates to reduce or eliminate salt from foods.

  • Moyer cites a 2011 study that found "no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure."
  • And scientists with the European Project on Genes in Hypertension recently published the results of another study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggesting an inverse correlation between sodium consumption and heart-disease deaths.
  • One of the main driving forces behind the anti-salt crusade is a 1970s study that showed a high salt diet caused high blood pressure in rats.
  • This study, however, made the common fallacy of mistaking correlation for causation and failed to control or account for myriad additional variables.

In reality, each person's individual risk of heart disease is based on many factors, including lifestyle, genetics and access to health care.  Diet, including sodium consumption, is only one of many factors. It is foolhardy for politicians to lump all individual cases together and make prescriptions for society at large that will limit individual choice and raise our cost of living.  The European Project on Genes agrees, noting their conclusions "do not support the current recommendations of a generalized and indiscriminate reduction of salt intake at the population level."

Source: Luke Pelican and Jacqueline Otto, "Let's Put a Stop to the War on Salt," Fox News, August 15, 2011.

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