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Saturday, June 3, 2017

SALT MIGHT NOT BE AS BAD AS YOU THINK

This blog site has reported that: 
But wait a minute, didn't the World Health Organization in 2015 report that red meat is probably carcinogenic? Further, the British Medical Journal this year indicated that red meat is linked to nine diseases and will lower your life expectancy.  However, note that there is that factor of processed meats, like sausages.

Conclusions The results show increased risks of all cause mortality and death due to nine different causes associated with both processed and unprocessed red meat, accounted for, in part, by heme iron and nitrate/nitrite from processed meat. They also show reduced risks associated with substituting white meat, particularly unprocessed white meat.

Reading further, the message is clear that you should especially avoid processed meats and to maintain a balanced diet.  In moderation and occasionally, a small (how small?) steak should be fine.

Now something that even I find difficult to accept:  Current salt guidelines are based on almost nothing. That is a quote from Suzanne Oparil, former president of the American Health Association.  An average person who reduces his or her salt intake from median levels to the U.S. recommended levels may see a drop in blood pressure from 120/80 to 118/79, according to American Heart Association figures.

  • Under the current dietary guidelines, too much is more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day - the amount of sodium in a teaspoon of salt. (For people over 50, and for African-Americans, the current recommended intake is even lower - 1,500 milligrams per day.)
  • If the U.S. salt warnings are correct, Americans are indeed endangering themselves on a massive scale. Americans typically go way over the limit, ingesting about 3,500 milligrams per day.
  • If the skeptics are correct, on the other hand, most Americans are fine. In their view, a typical healthy person can consume as much as 6,000 milligrams per day without significantly raising health risks.  But consuming too little - somewhere below 3,000 milligrams - also raises health risks, they say.
  • olive oil                                       0
  • apple                                           0
  • unsalted pecans                          0
  • vinegar                                        0
  • 1 cup macaroni                           1
  • 1 oz peanuts with no salt            2
  • 1 cup beans                                2
  • 1 cup orange juice                      2
  • 1 tbsp butter                                2
  • 3.5 oz red wine                           5
  • 8 oz water                                   7
  • 12 oz regular beer                     18
  • 1 cup broccoli                            41
  • 3 oz salmon                              56
  • one boiled egg                          62
  • 12 oz club soda                        75
  • 1 tbsp butter with salt             117
  • 1 cup chocolate milk              153
  • 1 5 tbsp French dressing        214
  • 11 oz milk shake                    297
  • 3.5 inch plain bagel                379
  • 1 croissant                             424
  • 3 oz canned salmon              471
  • 1 cup canned corn                  571
  • 1 dill pickle                             833
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce                     914
  • 1 cup chicken noodle soup   1106
  • 1 cup baked beans                1008
  • 1 cheeseburger                     1108
  • 1 cup past with meatballs     1053
  • 1 cup mac and cheese           1058
  • 3 oz ham                              1128
  • 1 large taco                          1233
  • 1 cup potato salad               1323
  • 1 cup tomato sauce             1482
  • 1 cup sauerkraut                 1560
  • 1 tsp table salt                     2325
  • 1 cup miso                           2507
Lengthy list, but, in general, any canned product, pickles and processed meats are extremely salty.

Much of salt guidelines was influenced by a 1973 paper from Lillian Gleiberman reporting that those populations (African bushmen, Eskimos, etc.) consuming exceptionally low levels of salt had the lowest blood pressures.  The medical profession stepped in and suggested dietary guidelines that amounted to a series of guesses that kept changing.  Studies, though, contradicted the perceived facts, as for example, South Koreans consumed vast amounts of salt, but had low blood pressure.  Nevertheless the 2.3 gram limit has pretty much held:


Here is a 2008 paper Gleiberman published.  She has recently said:

They have a simpler life.  They don’t have the obesity, the diabetes and the other problems we have.  We can’t look at a no-salt culture and say, if we just do that, we’d be okay.

To finally quote from that Washington Post article:
  • In 2013, the Institute of Medicine published a major review of the evidence connecting salt consumption and health outcomes. There was insufficient proof, the panel concluded, that heeding the U.S. recommended limit on sodium consumption improved health outcomes.
  • Then, this past August, the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a massive research effort known as the PURE study. It indicated that people who conform to the U.S. recommended limits actually have more heart trouble.
In my mind there has to be some correlation between too much salt and higher blood pressure.  Salt causes water retention in the body, known to raise hypertension.  I do take two pills to minimize this condition.  However, my blood pressure can get too low (as minimal as 80/50) when I have a big meal and walk on a golf course.  I've experimented with li hing mui (salty Chinese plums) and other salt infusions.  Not sure if they actually helped.  However, I've found a way to minimize this problem just by not eating much before golf.

So what is the bottom line?  Salt remains a contentious subject in the medical profession.  There is no consensus on the need for dietary guidelines.  I'll just observe how these professionals sort this matter out and, in the relatively short period I have left, use judgement in eating what I want within reason.  Their discord, though, serves to ameliorate any guilt conscience on my part.

A big part of the problem is that we are all different in how we react to salt, and experimental science is nowhere close to finding the optimal solution.  There definitely is too much salt in poke (Hawaiian marinated fish dish), pickles and a whole host of things I'll just continue to enjoy while keeping my blood pressure within a reasonably healthful range.  
I love the taste of butter and wagyu beef, so will strive to maximize my input within certain limitations, especially as my overall cholesterol is well within limits, with good high density lipoprotein levels.  Alcohol?  I probably drink too much, but my body continues to function well and I'll adjust as necessary, assuaging my remorse by continuing to serve as the voice of moderation at 15 Craigside dinner tables.

So why is salt not as bad as you think?
  • The medical profession seems to be verging on relaxing strict standards.
  • It is cheap.  About $5/pound, but consider the cost of producing and shipping this commodity.
  • Iodized salt is essential for healthy brain development.
  • Aids in healthy muscle functioning and reducing cramps.
  • Helps fight off infection.
  • Might have been an important factor in the origin of life, as 3.5% of the ocean is sodium chloride, or salt.  How much salt is this?  If removed from sea and spread on land, the layer would be 500 feet thick.  In comparison, if all the ice melts, our sea level would rise by 264 feet.  Florida would disappear, save for perhaps 25 very tiny islands.  What has this to do with salt?  Nothing, except I can again point out the folly of Donald Trump.  Although some time this coming week I'm pondering on whether I should enumerate the benefits of the USA pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord.
We bemoan the fact that the medical profession keeps changing guidelines.  But that's because the field of nutrition and the human body are complex.  While the current knowledge base to prevent the onset of Alzheimer's is exercise, diet and active thinking, with excitement about Liraglutide (brand name Victoza), a common type 2 diabetes treatment drug, in time, I expect prevention and cure to occur.  But can this be attained in time for me?

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