It's been a tough year for the American Heart Association and other Pharma-affiliated "expert" groups. Science has finally put the lie to some of the long-standing "dietary guidelines" they've been selling us for decades, and they're not happy about it.
First cholesterol got the axe. The evidence that dietary cholesterol DOESN'T cause heart disease is now so compelling that even the USDA took it off their list of bad guys. Of course, that didn't stop the Big Medicine from expanding the guidelines for who should take cholesterol drugs. Big Pharma wants everyone on a pill. And when Big Pharma isn't happy, Big Medicine and the AMA aren't happy either.
Saturated fat was also vindicated. Of course the AMA still recommends low fat. And the high-carb diet that has made us sick and overweight is still held up as a shining example — even though the evidence against it is overwhelming.
Now salt is under the microscope, and the picture that's emerging is wildly different from the one that's been painted for us.
AMA: That's my story and I'm sticking to it!
There's a pattern emerging when it comes to "official" dietary guidelines. It goes like this: an "expert" group like the AMA makes a "recommendation." This is promoted in government guidelines. It influences all kinds of things, from school lunches to food manufacturing. Advertisers jump on the bandwagon. We're bombarded with the new "guideline" from all sides. Our doctors tell us we're taking our lives in our hands if we don't conform.
Usually Big Pharma worms in a drug or two that's related somehow. We're told we're risking our health if we don't follow the guideline AND take the drug. Any scientists who dare to disagree are ridiculed and belittled. Doctors who don't toe the party line are called quacks. Then a few years go by. Or a decade. Or even two. However long it takes for the new guideline to really take effect — that is, for us to get good and sick. And then…
We find out the "guideline" was based on faulty science. Sometimes it's even based on an outright lie. We discover much too late that not only is the guideline not good for us, it may actually make us sick. The experts, of course, continue to point to the "guideline" even as they admit that the science is "inconclusive". We've seen it happen time and time again — with high-carb diets, with cholesterol, with fat, with fluoride. We've seen it so many times that it shouldn't be a surprise.
Now, it looks as if this may be the case for salt.
Surprise! A low-salt diet might actually be…bad for you
I know that's a shocking statement, given the thirty-odd years of anti-salt rhetoric we've lived with. But the evidence is there. Multiple studies over the past five years — all published in prestigious journals like the Journal of the American Medical Association — have found that not only does a low-salt diet not prevent heart disease, it may actually make you more likely to die from it.
But wait. Isn't a low-sodium diet supposed to be one of the most important things you can do to lower your blood pressure?
This is what we've been told. However, for every study which says low salt = low blood pressure, there is one which says it makes no difference and a second one that says it raises blood pressure. And the scientific world is beginning to take notice, even if the AMA isn't. This begs the question, "How did we end up with these guidelines anyhow?" As usual, it's a case of bad science and the unwillingness of "experts" to admit they might have been wrong even if it kills us. Here's what happened.
How salt became the villain of the piece
It started over a hundred years ago, when someone noticed that a few — six, to be exact — patients with high blood pressure also ate a lot of salt. They wondered if there might be a connection. Like so many medical ideas, this one floated around in the background, gaining and losing interest over the years. Then in 1977 researcher Lewis Dahl claimed that he had "proof" that salt causes high blood pressure. And here's where the science goes really, really rotten.
Dahl gave rats high blood pressure by feeding them sodium. This is true. But the thing is, he had to feed them insane amounts of sodium to get the effect he wanted. A person would have to eat five hundred grams of sodium each day to get the equivalent amount.
To put that in perspective, the average person — who's told to cut their salt intake by half — eats about 3.4 grams of sodium, or 8.5 grams of table salt, per day. To make it perfectly clear: it took the human equivalent of 500 grams a day before the rats got sick. But we're told that less than 4 grams will kill us.
This is beyond bad science.
Of course the USDA quickly put out a "guideline" telling us to cut our sodium intake drastically. And of course even the huge studies published later were ignored. In 1988 "Intersalt", a very large study looking at people in 52 countries, found that eating less salt didn't lower blood pressure. In fact it found the opposite. This study showed that people who ate the most salt — 14 grams — had consistently lower blood pressure than those who ate only 7 grams a day. Several large studies each decade have found the same thing.
So what's the bottom line?
If you're worried about your blood pressure, decreasing your salt intake probably isn't going to help and it may even hurt. Even the most supportive studies find that decreasing your salt makes only a tiny difference. Your BP may go from 120/80 to 119/79 if you're lucky. And if the bulk of the studies are correct, low salt intake may actually be contributing to your high blood pressure. So what can you do to lower your blood pressure?
• Lose any extra pounds
• Reduce your stress
• Get enough potassium
…and don't stress about salt. Plus, stay tuned for information on how to lower your blood pressure naturally, in spite of the AMA.