Food-police activists have compared trans fats to arsenic, cupcakes to contraband, and—most recently—salt to the plague. Over the weekend, the Chicago Tribune quoted one nutrition “expert” who likened the effects of salt to “AIDS, malaria, terrorism, obesity, high cholesterol and tobacco.” This epidemic of hyperbole is nothing new. Over the past decade, nutrition zealots at the Center for Science in the Public Interest have repeatedly petitioned the FDA to revoke salt’s “generally recognized as safe” status and treat it as a food additive for the purposes of regulation, which would allow strict limits on the salt content of processed foods.
For many activists spreading these food fears, the facts seem largely irrelevant. There’s no scientific consensus on the issue, let alone concrete evidence of a universal relationship between salt intake and hypertension. In fact, only a small minority of people—tagged as “salt-sensitive”—respond to changes in dietary sodium. For the rest of us, studies have shown that the consequences of too little salt can be deadly.
Common sense dictates that we can’t simply cut salt out of our diets. For thousands of years people have used it for currency, medicine, and preservation of food. Unlike the self-important food cops, salt is truly essential for life itself.