No, not really. But he is taking most of the salt out of New Yorkers’ favorite meals. New York City health officials now claim only one in five adult New Yorkers keep their salt consumption within recommended limits. But a European study released this week indicates that Big Apple bureaucrats’ “recommendations” may actually be harmful to consumers’ health. Researchers following nearly 3,700 people over an average of 8 years found that lower salt intake was associated with a higher rate of heart-attack death among participants.
This new research rains on the anti-salt parade of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Assemblyman Felix Ortiz. Gotham’s twin bland-food warriors have vilified restaurants and scolded ordinary eaters for making their food more pleasing to the palate with a sensible shake of salt. But the European researchers write that salt-reduction initiatives “don’t make sense.”
Study co-author Dr. Jan A. Staessen from Belgium put it like this:
What our study basically shows is that it might not be right to impose a general reduction on sodium intake … there are very few arguments showing that reducing salt intake in the general population would result in substantial benefit.
This isn’t the first time the scientific community has disputed the merits of nanny-state efforts to put your salt back in the shaker. When Bloomberg launched his crusade in 2009, American Journal of Hypertension editor Michael Alderman told the New York Daily News that the effort was more of a science “experiment” on the general population than a legitimate campaign borne out of sound science and positive proof.
And while American salt-reduction advocates have been quick to criticize any new science that runs counter to their argument, other studies have cast doubts on the theory that cutting back on sodium is good public-health practics. Alderman noted this in a February 2009 New York Times column:
The best available evidence on how salt consumption affects our health comes from observational studies, in which groups of subjects are investigated to identify any correlations between usual sodium intake and subsequent heart attacks and strokes. Nine such studies, looking at a total of more than 100,000 participants who consume as much sodium as New Yorkers do, have had mixed results. In four of them, reduced dietary salt was associated with an increased incidence of death and disability from heart attacks and strokes. In one that focused on obese people, more salt was associated with increased cardiovascular mortality. And in the remaining four, no association between salt and health was seen.
We’ve all heard the adage that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Now it’s time for government health officials to put some proof in the proverbial pudding or else we’ll just continue to take their baseless health advice with—you guessed it—a grain of salt.