Is salt the “deadly white powder you already snort”? The hyperbolic Center for Science in the Public Interest has said it is. And public health activists from the Institute of Medicine to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are picking up and running with CSPI’s alarmist “salt kills” banner. They want population-wide reductions in the amount of sodium we consume.

But with each day that goes by, their wild assertions and conclusions look more and more premature. Just ask British researchers with The Cochrane Collaborative.

In a study released online today by the American Journal of Hypertension, researchers reviewed evidence collected from 6,500 patients and found that even a whopping 50 percent salt reduction could not be associated with a significant decrease in cardiovascular disease or mortality risk.

Additionally, they discovered that salt reduction is associated with higher mortality rates in patients already diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

MedPage Today asked McMaster University’s Salim Yusuf for his take:

“While undoubtedly increased sodium [salt] intake is associated with higher blood pressure, the epidemiologic relationship of high sodium intake in Western societies related to stroke or cardiovascular disease (CVD) is weak and inconsistent.” […]

Evidence in support of restricted salt intake to prevent cardiovascular morbidity and mortality has come, in large part, from the relationship of salt intake to blood pressure, Taylor and co-authors noted in the background of their report.

In other words, anti-salt scaremongers have adopted a two-degrees-of-separation approach to theorize about the effects of sodium consumption on the heart. It should come as no surprise that their speculation is losing whatever credibility, if any, it once had. We’re sure the anti-salt zealots will respond to the latest study by demanding even greater salt reductions, but that seems like more of the same nonsense.

American Journal of Hypertension editor Michael Alderman has long been a critic of overzealous public policy targeting salt intake. He considers the Big Apple’s salt-reduction attempts “an experiment on a whole population.” And this latest analysis questioning the so-called conventional wisdom about salt is by no means an anomaly.

We’re glad that responsible scientists calling for a higher standard of truth for health policy decisions now have even more ammunition to make their case. Meanwhile, we have a different take: Basing your diet on CSPI’s pronouncements could increase your risk of dying. Who would have thought?