New Study Contradicts Government Warnings About Salt

Washington, D.C., May 4, 2011—The Journal of the American Medical Association has released a new study that directly challenges many government assertions about the effects of salt on the human body. Below is the reaction of CEI Research Associate Daniel Compton.

Statement of Daniel Compton

The results of this new study suggest that higher salt consumption is not correlated with higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Somewhat shockingly, the study’s authors also found that  lower salt consumption was actually associated with a higher risk of death by CVD.

This new evidence flies in the face of various government initiatives to restrict the salt content of processed foods. New York’s Mayor Bloomberg worked with city officials to kick off one such program in early 2010, dubbed the National Salt Reduction Initiative. The plan calls for a 20% reduction of Americans’ salt intake over five years. The New York initiative currently calls for food manufacturers to reduce the salt content of their products voluntarily, but the city’s trans fat ban also started out as a voluntary program. The FDA is also exploring the possibility of reducing Americans’ salt consumption, but through a non-voluntary regulatory mechanism.

Combined with the findings of a groundbreaking 2009 UC Davis study—which concluded that salt intake “is unlikely to be malleable by public policy initiatives” due to certain well-understood neurological mechanisms that control our appetites for salt—this new study casts still further doubt on the advisability of Bloomberg’s and the FDA’s salt-slashing plans.

The 2009 study shows that such programs would very likely fail to reduce our salt intake, and the newly released study shows that more people could die from CVD as a result of these plans if they did successfully reduce our salt intake. Add to this the consideration of whether government officials even have the right to decide what kinds of food we can buy—even if it turns out that salt is unhealthy—as well as the fact that Americans actually consume about 9% less salt than the worldwide average, and it would appear that the FDA and Bloomberg don’t have a leg to stand on.

Further Reading:

• Daniel Compton’s Statement on the FDA Salt Initiative, April 20, 2010

• Daniel Compton’s New York Post Op-ed,As-salt on Science,” January 13, 2010

• Sam Kazman’s Cigar Magazine article, “Dining on Politics,” June 1, 2010