A salty debate
June 3, 2012 12:21 PM   Subscribe

Should we be reducing our salt intake? Maybe not.
posted by nadawi (99 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Eat This Rock!
posted by curious nu at 12:33 PM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh fer cryin' out loud, isn't this like the fourth or fifth flip-flop on the hazards of salt?
posted by LarryC at 12:33 PM on June 3, 2012


Eggs Good For You This Week
posted by modernserf at 12:39 PM on June 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


First my cola drinks, now my salt-shaker. YOU CAN PRY THIS CHOCOLATE SYRUP BOTTLE FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS!!!!
posted by Fizz at 12:39 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting article overall. The lack of evidence (or perhaps lack of publicized evidence) for whether or not low salt is beneficial or harmful is one of those peculiar things about the religion of diet in the US.

Frankly, I can't live without salt if I'm cooking. Cooking with salt creates results which simply cannot be achieved without it. From sauces to brining meat to doing rubs, not to mention the necessity of salt in baking, it's impossible to do without it.

Now, as far as salt sprinkled onto food on one's plate at dinner, that's something else entirely. And it has a lot to do with individual taste, not to mention the kind of salt being used. I find I use a lot less salt on the dining table if I have a salt grinder loaded with sea salt or something than I do if it's a shaker with Morton's table salt. YMMV.
posted by hippybear at 12:41 PM on June 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


From what I can tell, it's less that there's flip-flopping than that there's an old and possibly wrong result that a lot of people have solidly incorporated into their worldview and in some cases built their career on - and now there's an endless PR war.

I'm biased, mind you. I went from continental Europe where they pour salt on everything to the UK, where they don't and still have a higher rate of heart disease. Correlation does not imply causation, I admit. But I'm minded to believe the Cochrane Collaboration, who are generally very thorough in their meta-analyses. Plus: salt tasty.
posted by Zarkonnen at 12:44 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gary Taubes is usually pretty interesting. I liked his interview on EconTalk.
posted by painquale at 12:45 PM on June 3, 2012


I roomed with a family where the mother was so paranoid of salt, she wouldn't salt the pasta water. and these were young kids who didn't, and couldn't, find salty snacks outside of the home.
posted by clvrmnky at 12:48 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The 5 days I stuck to the only low-salt diet I will ever attempt in my entire life were the 5 most emotional, agonizing, depressing, miserable fucking days of my entire life. NEVER AGAIN. I will die with a greasy fistful of fries in my hands and I WILL LIKE IT.
posted by elizardbits at 12:55 PM on June 3, 2012 [20 favorites]


I wonder if, like everything else diet-related, salt should be used in moderation, and increased and decreased in proportion to exercise and baseline activity levels!
posted by beaucoupkevin at 12:59 PM on June 3, 2012 [40 favorites]


Interesting article. For some reason anything to do with the science of nutrition seems to get totally swamped out with completely irrational views. It's not surprising that this would too.
posted by delmoi at 1:00 PM on June 3, 2012


I will die with a greasy fistful of fries in my hands and I WILL LIKE IT.

Chances are the grease is doing more harm to you than the salt.
posted by hippybear at 1:01 PM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nope. I have low cholesterol and low blood pressure so ALL THE FRIES THEY ARE FOR ME. me me me.
posted by elizardbits at 1:02 PM on June 3, 2012 [18 favorites]


Oh fer cryin' out loud, isn't this like the fourth or fifth flip-flop on the hazards of salt?

No, this has been known for years. I don't understand why certain people try to push low-salt diets for otherwise healthy individuals.
posted by grouse at 1:03 PM on June 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Food needs salt to taste good. The right amount of salt--not too little, not too much.

However, people who salt without tasting should be shot.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:13 PM on June 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


After my Dad had his first heart attack, both of us had to go to classes where a dietitian would talk about the importance of low salt diets, and this lecture was repeated from time to time after different hospitalizations. I remember the way the dietitian from the last couple of lectures spoke with real conviction in her voice, and she even had props: empty boxes and cans that she'd pass around to the audience, so everyone could find the spot where they list sodium content and choose the healthiest foods. It's hard to believe all that was based upon such flimsy evidence.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:17 PM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I roomed with a family where the mother was so paranoid of salt, she wouldn't salt the pasta water

I'm too lazy/paranoid of salt to salt the pasta water. Am I actually missing out in a real way? It never seemed to make a difference that I could tell.
posted by jacalata at 1:19 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


jacalata, it makes a difference. I'm inattentive enough to forget to salt the water sometimes, and even with sauce, you can tell the pasta is under-salted.
posted by maudlin at 1:22 PM on June 3, 2012


This paper provides an interesting look into public health guidelines such as low-sodium and low-fat diets, and the (often negative) effect they have on the population if the effects of such recommendations are not taken into consideration (for example the massive increase in carb consumption stemming from fat being vilified).
posted by Adamsmasher at 1:24 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder if, like everything else diet-related, salt should be used in moderation, and increased and decreased in proportion to exercise and baseline activity levels!

Moderation? How dare you suggest being a moderate! Moderation isn't what this country was built on. I for one am for salt freedom. I dream of a day where there is a salt lick in every child's bedroom! Salt baby salt!
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:24 PM on June 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


Ah, another topic that's tangled and complicated and makes people issue unilateral emotional proclamations.

One reason there is little clear evidence of the effect of dietary salt intake is that epidemiological studies of salt intake are remarkably difficult to do right. It's difficult to keep people on salt restriction diets because everything is made with lots of salt. Salt is added in copious quantities to everything we eat in the US. It's added to frozen vegetables; Twinkies are full of salt; even a lot of supermarket chicken is pre-injected with salt solution.

Let's not forget that this is a single-author op-ed. It's not a position paper, not a substantive metanalysis, not a recommendation from the medical community. This person speaks for no one but himself. It's an op-ed.

The op-ed author does include the observation that some human populations eat very little refined salt and have superior cardiovascular health. But when discussing the seeming stability of salt intake in populations across time, he muddies the waters by failing to mention that typical daily salt intake varies quite a bit by region. For example, the "average Japanese diet" is much saltier than the average US equivalent.

Whatever the effect of salt is, it undoubtedly interacts in complex ways with other dietary factors, age, gender, genetic predisposition, and lots of other things.

Anecdotally, I come from an Eastern European background, have what could be described as mild hypertension, and find most processed foods unpleasantly salty. I like an occasional salty treat — I keep a little tub of pork floss for that purpose. But I can't, for example, eat a meal at Chik-fil-A without moderate physical discomfort (which is entirely separate from the moral discomfort of eating there). I try to buy canned foods (e.g., diced tomatoes) without added salt, use reduced quantities of salt while cooking, avoid eating a lot of bread, and otherwise try to stick to the recommended daily intake limits. Whatever it's doing for my long-term health, I prefer life without palpitations.
posted by Nomyte at 1:27 PM on June 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've actually been thinking about posting a question to Ask Metafilter about the health risks of salt consumption, because my limited/anecdotal experience doesn't seem to support the link between salt consumption and hypertension. So I was wondering how well-established the link really was.
posted by Naiad at 1:29 PM on June 3, 2012


It's not just about salt. The bigger issue is the use of surrogate endpoints in clinical trials. Here's how it works:

1. A big, population-based study finds that variable X is associated with outcome Y, e.g. high blood pressure is associated with strokes, high cholesterol is associated with heart attacks. People go into panic mode about X.

2. Clever researchers come out with drugs or other treatments (e.g. low salt diets) that reduce variable X and publish a study saying "Look! Our drug causes X to go down! Everyone who has high X should take it!"

2a. Note that the study hasn't said anything about the effect of the drug on outcome Y, because it's a lot easier and cheaper to do a short-term study that shows that a drug changes the value of some number than to show that it actually saves lives. Why not just assume that if you change X, you'll change Y in the right direction?

3. Longer-term studies come out showing that not every method of changing X leads to positive changes in Y. For example, torcetrapib -- does a great job at lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and raising HDL (good) cholesterol, but in the long run, people who took it were more likely to die than those who don't.

4. Lots of drugs are still out there that change X but don't have any evidence either way about outcome Y. Half of the drugs for diabetes and high cholesterol fall into this category. But let's say that you have condition X, and you're already on one drug (which has been shown to change outcome Y in a good way), and your numbers are still off. Many doctors don't feel comfortable leaving their patients in a state of having "bad numbers," even though there's hardly any evidence that the other drugs they'll suggest will make a real difference in the long run. So they end up chasing numbers with more and more drugs, with potentially little benefit, higher costs, and more side effects.

Welcome to modern medicine.
posted by greatgefilte at 1:29 PM on June 3, 2012 [67 favorites]


I've cut back on using salt in cooking at home, due to high blood pressure. The only unwelcome side effect has been that restaurant meals, fast food and processed food often taste inedibly salty to me. (Of course I still use salt, including in pasta water, but I just don't use as much as I used to.)
posted by Daily Alice at 1:30 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jesus Christ, I thought I was used to science journalism being fucking terrible but this might be a new low.

HOW THE FUCK DO YOU GET AN ARTICLE ABOUT SALT CONSUMPTION PUBLISHED IN THE NEW YORK TIMES WITHOUT BEING ABLE TO TELL THE FUCKING DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SODIUM CHLORIDE AND OTHER SALTS.

Please get your medical advice from your doctors and relevant medical agencies, this is fucking ridiculous.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:31 PM on June 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Crusade, a series that was sadly too short:
Max Eilerson: Bring me more of these... Salted. I work better with salt. - Did you know that in the 20th century they actually thought that salt was bad for you? Listen to the animals I say. The lion will sit down with the lamb to share the salt lick. - Good enough for them, good enough for me.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:46 PM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


However, people who salt without tasting should be shot.

I have already tasted food before in my life, and I know there's not enough salt on it. Okay?
posted by Sing Or Swim at 1:47 PM on June 3, 2012 [19 favorites]


HOW THE FUCK DO YOU GET AN ARTICLE ABOUT SALT CONSUMPTION PUBLISHED IN THE NEW YORK TIMES WITHOUT BEING ABLE TO TELL THE FUCKING DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SODIUM CHLORIDE AND OTHER SALTS.

Everyone knows he means sodium chloride. Even you knew that.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:50 PM on June 3, 2012 [25 favorites]


@Kevin Street: It's hard to believe all that was based upon such flimsy evidence.

Sort of like the lipid hypothesis regarding cholesterol and saturated fat, which the dietician assuredly also discussed?

There are dozens of reasons why this salad is a better and healthier thing to eat than this quadruple cheeseburger. Fat (saturated and otherwise), cholesterol, sodium, calories, chemical additives, sugar, antioxidants, and a variety of nutrients all play a role in that. The mistake that keeps getting made over and over again is to single out one or two of these as the Thing That Kills People until proven otherwise, then to move to the next on the list.
posted by delfin at 1:52 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm too lazy/paranoid of salt to salt the pasta water. Am I actually missing out in a real way? It never seemed to make a difference that I could tell.

There's a pretty dramatic difference but if you don't feel like you're missing out, you're not missing out. If you're cooking for other people, though, they're probably missing out, because most people use salt in pasta water and pasta tastes noticeably bland and lifeless without it.

But it's like a lot of things, you get used to it.

I figured out recently after years that I was way over-salting pasta water when I started cooking it for my daughter and I'd try a piece plain and it was like I'd cooked it in seawater.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:59 PM on June 3, 2012


Huh. Could have something to do with the balance of sodium and potassium in the body. And how some folks who salt every single thing they put into their mouths may be less inclined to eat things with potassium. Too much sodium, not enough potassium...whooooboy that's a mess.

However, if you're on a restricted sodium diet and eating loads and loads of potassium rich fruits and veggies...wait...that's a chance another imbalance!

Moderation of each appears to be key. Funny enough, the guy doesn't mention potassium once in this article. I thought he should have and was surprised not to notice. Wanting to avoid looking like a fool, I used ctrl+F and lo, it's not there. I say, continue eating not too much of foods (as Michael Pollan would say) that your grandmother (or great grandmother) would recognize as food. Variety, not too much, and food being the key terms.

(Interestingly, the human body is well designed to hang onto sodium and excrete potassium. Why? Some folks would tell you that is because salt licks usually had a lion or two hanging around somewhere. Berries and other planty things were a little easier to get than sodium.)
posted by bilabial at 2:02 PM on June 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


There have been a number of studies suggesting that what's important to health is not the absolute sodium intake, but rather the ratio of sodium to potassium intake. Na intake = K intake or Na intake < K intake is good, Na intake > K intake is unhealthy. Here's one such study. "In summary, our findings indicate that higher sodium-potassium ratio is associated with significantly increased risk of [cardiovascular disease] and all-cause mortality in the general US population. "

Na and K are closely linked in mammalian physiology. The body expends a considerable amount of energy pushing Na out of cells and K into cells. One of the major functions of the kidney is to keep those two cations in a delicate balance.

BTW, everyone should read greatgefilte's comment about surrogate endpoints. Yes, I know your eyes glazed over by paragraph 2. But please read it again, focus, and try to understand it. This is a really important subject when trying to understand the medical literature, or even whatever scraps of it wind up in articles in the mass media. Surrogate endpoints are are often used when they are faster, cheaper and easier than detecting actual clinical outcomes. But in terms of having a study actually mean something, and compel action, a surrogate endpoint often seriously weakens the meaning and importance of a study result.

On preview: bilabial got there first about potassium.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 2:10 PM on June 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


I wish somebody would do one of those RSA Animate videos about surrogate endpoints. It would make it so much easier to explain.
posted by greatgefilte at 2:12 PM on June 3, 2012


The science is settled!!! How dare you deny the science?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:18 PM on June 3, 2012


Speaking of surrogate endpoints, there's a neat article about how donating blood is potentially good for your health (lowers blood pressure, blood sugar, etc.). I'll be very interested to see how this one turns out in the long-run, rather than just based on the numbers.
posted by greatgefilte at 2:19 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


In their endless quest to find things to do to distract the voters, the City Council of NYC considered a bill that forbade any food preparation companies in NYC from adding salt to food. Like not just limit it, but set it to zero.

Local bakeries then informed them that without salt, anything made with yeast won't rise. The yeast needs salt in order to grow. I'm not sure what ended up happening to that bill.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:25 PM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Local bakeries then informed them that without salt, anything made with yeast won't rise. The yeast needs salt in order to grow. I'm not sure what ended up happening to that bill.

It's about time the rest of the city understands what it's like to observe Passover the real way.
posted by greatgefilte at 2:28 PM on June 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Salt? Check. Popcorn? Check. Time for a reversal on butter.
posted by pashdown at 2:35 PM on June 3, 2012


The yeast needs salt in order to grow

I'm fairly sure that this is wrong. I think the point probably was that the salt slows yeast growth and controls the leavening process, making it impossible to produce good bread (at least in the styles people want) without it.
posted by howfar at 2:41 PM on June 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Time for a reversal on butter.

I thought butter had already been reversed, or settled down, or designated as better than margarine, or whatever the grand panjandrums have decided this week.
posted by blucevalo at 2:43 PM on June 3, 2012


Yeah, yeast needs carbs to grow, not salt.
posted by elizardbits at 2:52 PM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


In their endless quest to find things to do to distract the voters, the City Council of NYC considered a bill that forbade any food preparation companies in NYC from adding salt to food. Like not just limit it, but set it to zero.

That was actually just one Assemblyman distraught after his father passed away from heart problems and that bill never got very far. The Assembly actually being the lower house of the state government. That's the same assemblyman who proposed lowering the drinking age to 18 (i.e. sometimes he likes to propose unlikely stuff in order to spark conversation).

The city as a whole (through the Health Dept) proposed a voluntary 25% reduction in salt by 2014, which Kraft and PepsiCo have actually agreed to and the NYC restaurant industry association called "a blueprint for how industry and health departments should work together."
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:56 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Salt needs carbs to grow yeast.
posted by Nomyte at 2:56 PM on June 3, 2012


"Should we be reducing our salt intake?"

No, we should stop getting our health advice from newspapers and online.
posted by Ardiril at 3:02 PM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


greatgefilte: Note that the study hasn't said anything about the effect of the drug on outcome Y, because it's a lot easier and cheaper to do a short-term study that shows that a drug changes the value of some number than to show that it actually saves lives. Why not just assume that if you change X, you'll change Y in the right direction?

Slithy_Tove: Surrogate endpoints are are often used when they are faster, cheaper and easier than detecting actual clinical outcomes.

You say "faster, easier, and cheaper" like it's a bad thing. Faster, easier, and cheaper means you can do more trials and investigate more interventions. Yeah, what you find out about them isn't exactly what you want to know. But it gives you a much better chance to find something (or a bunch of things) that yanks the biomarker of interest around, and then when something seems really promising you can do a large-scale, long-term trial to get a sense of whether the drug affects a certain health outcome in the way you want. Sometimes that doesn't work (e.g. torcentrapib, and the most recent trial on Niaspan didn't look so hot either) and sometimes it does (statins.)

But what else are you going to do? Run a ten-year study for each drug you think for some theoretical reason might work? That is sl-o-o-o-o-w.

Researchers don't use surrogate endpoints because they're lazy or stupid; they use them because they're an efficient way to get to desired outcomes.
posted by escabeche at 3:02 PM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


HOW THE FUCK DO YOU GET AN ARTICLE ABOUT SALT CONSUMPTION PUBLISHED IN THE NEW YORK TIMES WITHOUT BEING ABLE TO TELL THE FUCKING DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SODIUM CHLORIDE AND OTHER SALTS.
Are you kidding? Everyone understands that you're talking about sodium chloride when you're talking about salt and cooking. The Wikipedia entry on salt actually says: "Salt, also known as table salt, or rock salt, is a crystalline mineral that is composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of ionic salts."

WTF? Did you think people might get it confused with, like, lead acetate, and start using it as a sweetener (as they did in ancient rome) or perhaps read thins and think cocaine hydrochloride was totally fine? WTF. It's just a totally bizarroland complaint. When people talk about "Salt" they mean sodium chloride. Other salts are completely irrelevant for the discussion.
Moderation of each appears to be key. Funny enough, the guy doesn't mention potassium once in this article.
By "appears" you mean "appears in scientific liturature" or just "seems reasonable when I make a wild-ass guess?" Because part of the problem seems to be too many people just guessing.
posted by delmoi at 3:03 PM on June 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Researchers don't use surrogate endpoints because they're lazy or stupid; they use them because they're an efficient way to get to desired outcomes.

I don't disagree with that at all. But relying on trials that have only used surrogate outcomes as gospel truth that some intervention is going to save your life when there's no real evidence either way doesn't seem particularly smart to me. Yeah, maybe the odds are that the surrogate and clinical outcomes will line up, but as you've pointed out too, there's no guarantee, and as long as that's the case, chasing salt and blood pressure and cholesterol levels to achieve what may be a marginally significant absolute risk reduction doesn't seem all that worth it, and I'd at least take the time to let my patient make an educated choice, to the extent that that's possible.
posted by greatgefilte at 3:11 PM on June 3, 2012


I have relatives who are overweight due to hypothyroidism.

They've been told to avoid salt because they are overweight.

Thing is, hypothyroidism = not enough iodine. This is why salt is iodized.

So, yeah. If salt is okay, that's kind of a huge deal for a lot of people.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:18 PM on June 3, 2012


Thing is, hypothyroidism = not enough iodine. This is why salt is iodized.

A minor point: the equation may be the case in some parts of the 3rd world where there's not enough iodine in food, but most 1st world hypothyroidism is autoimmune -- due to Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
posted by greatgefilte at 3:22 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like salt. I lick the soy sauce dish after my sushi is gone. It is added to popcorn in big fat pinches. In fact, I will put so much salt on my fries they crunch in my mouth like sand, which is basically a cue that I need to add more vinegar. And we did actually buy a salt lick for Boy from the farm supply.

What?
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:38 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


First, everyone who comments here should consider clicking on the first link referenced here, Alton Brown's "Eat This Rock." It is well worth an hour of your time toward understanding the most important foodstuff on Earth.

I think that's the real problem. People do not understand salt. People think its best purpose is to make things salty.

Nothing could be further from the truth. When used correctly, salt's best purpose is to season, that is, to bring out a food's most intrinsic flavors. Salt makes a tomato taste more like a tomato, makes a steak taste more beefy; and, if you've never tried it on a cantelope, don't even get me started. Brine your pork chops sometime and tell me that all you accomplished was to make your chops more salty. Sweat your slaw under salt for an hour before applying the dressing and tell me all that salt is for is for licking off of pretzels.

Besides, if people really want to utilize salt more discriminantly, they would stop buying canned soup. I know people who are concerned with their salt intake and so who do not use salt much when they're cooking something, but who live on prepared noodle packets. It's guano crazy.

The problem, in my opinion, isn't overconsumption or underconsumption of salt. It's ignorance of salt and what it can do and where it actually exists in your diet in mass and stupid quantities.

Also, yeah, salt the hell out of your pasta water. It should taste like sea water before the pasta goes in (yes, I learn a lot from Mr. Brown). It makes a tremendous difference.
posted by NedKoppel at 3:52 PM on June 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


P.S. Kosher salt, please. Table salt is nasty.
posted by NedKoppel at 3:54 PM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Kosher salt doesn't have iodine.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:58 PM on June 3, 2012


Breaking discovery: population scale dietary suggestions found to be misleading, too many differences between individuals.
posted by Slackermagee at 3:58 PM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Kosher salt doesn't have iodine.

True. Still so far I personally am goiter-free. Shrug.
posted by NedKoppel at 4:07 PM on June 3, 2012


Two groups of people.
Those who worry about what they eat - and shouldn't.

Those who don't worry about what they eat - and should.
posted by jan murray at 4:09 PM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


If yeast needed salt to grow, then it would be impossible to "proof" yeast for breadmaking by mixing yeast and a bit of sugar into water to see if it was still viable for use.
posted by hippybear at 4:16 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Time for a reversal on butter.

Already happened, at least for some.

Chances are the grease is doing more harm to you than the salt.

Funny thing is, I think it's the potatoes that are bad for you and the grease and salt are just fine. What a fucked up science, nutrition is.
posted by callmejay at 4:57 PM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, yeah... the potatoes are bad for you in that they are starchy carbs, which your body does a zillion things with, most of them which makes your body unhappy. The grease isn't as bad for you, but can accelerate heart disease if you already have a problem with plaque build-up in coronary arteries. If you're otherwise healthy, your body probably won't bother with the grease much at all other than to make your stool slide out more easily. The salt, generally, isn't going to harm you.
posted by hippybear at 5:14 PM on June 3, 2012


There are dozens of reasons why this salad is a better and healthier thing to eat than this quadruple cheeseburger.--delfin


That salad is missing something that would make it much healthier. The nutritionist researcher I once read said that a lot of the vitamins in vegetables are fat soluble, and will pass right through you unless you eat them with something that contains a little fat. So unless you are eating that salad as part of a bigger meal, put a little salad dressing on it.

Another way to look at it: I've just given you permission to put bacon bits on your salad.
posted by eye of newt at 5:16 PM on June 3, 2012


Oatmeal tastes utterly flavorless without a bit of salt. It helps the maple syrup or honey stand out that much more.

Or what Jeffrey Steingarten said.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:19 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Funny thing is, I think it's the potatoes that are bad for you and the grease and salt are just fine.

I am eating a bag of delicious sweet potato chips right now, and I regret nothing! Then again I also think pickles are a food group, so maybe I'm some sort of medical disaster waiting to happen...
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:30 PM on June 3, 2012


Funny thing is, I think it's the potatoes that are bad for you and the grease and salt are just fine. What a fucked up science, nutrition is.

I find it hilarious some people think that, given a greasy double bacon cheeseburger, the worst thing for them is the bun.
posted by Justinian at 5:46 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting that the article starts by mentioning salt tablets. I remember taking salt tablets almost every day in the summer, when I worked in our family's greenhouse all day, which could easily get over 100F every day, some days over 120F, with no shielding from sunlight, and high humidity from swamp coolers and then me watering plants all day long. And if I wasn't in the greenhouse, I was out mowing lawns. We would get horrible cramps in our legs and arms without even doing the slightest exertion other than holding a water hose. Then someone suggested salt pills and it was like a miracle cure.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:55 PM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I find it hilarious some people think that, given a greasy double bacon cheeseburger, the worst thing for them is the bun.

Why exactly do you think that's hilarious? The low-carb diet concept has worked wonders for a lot of people with diabetes and such, and has been advocated for quite a number of years in various forms.

Grease is bad, but empty carbs are much worse for you.
posted by hippybear at 5:58 PM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Eh, everything in this article should be taken with a grain of ... wait, seriously, no one has said this yet?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:11 PM on June 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


If the bun is made fom wheat, yeah, that's a no-brainer.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:27 PM on June 3, 2012


The certainties people have about diet is a source of both amusement and consternation to me. Beyond eating lots of fruit and vegetables and not being overweight (and even the fruit and veg thing doesn't seem to hold up as well as one might expect) the data seem so cloudy and the effects so contingent on genetics and environment that it's probably just best to go with what works for you, rather than proclaiming it as a universal truth.
posted by howfar at 6:32 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


metafilter: Chicken fried steak with extra salt is MUCH better for you than a baked potato? Because I said so.
posted by raysmj at 6:45 PM on June 3, 2012


well. sans the question mark
posted by raysmj at 6:45 PM on June 3, 2012


Thanks to this thread, I have learned that a Selmelier is a thing. I'm unsure what I think of having this knowledge, but thank you anyway.
posted by frimble at 7:03 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


IANAD: It has been my experience that 'salt in moderation' is very difficult to achieve if one eats a high-sodium diet. If one eats a bag of Doritostm or other extremely "flavored" food one's taste buds will acclimate to the sodium levels in those foods, and one's hunger for "salty" will increase. This contributes to a vicious cycle of hunger/flavor/diet/failure later in life.

One can wean off these foods by shopping the exterior walls of the supermarket - produce, dairy and bakery - and avoiding the packaged prepared food found in the general center of the markets. If one finds themselves craving salty food, go ahead, eat salty food, but eat 'healthy' salted food, at the salt level you want, then, day by day, one would gradually decrease the amount of salt until they are comfortable with a truly 'moderate' level of sodium intake as described by the FDA (because what other measure do we have?)

One can also wean off sugar or other undesirable ingredients in a similar manner.

Your body will tell you if you need salt, just as it tells you you need water - if you are physically active, you will need more salt than a couch potato.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 7:15 PM on June 3, 2012


What do you mean, there was no deep fat? No steak, or cream pies, or... hot fudge?
posted by Graygorey at 7:26 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


elizardbits: "Nope. I have low cholesterol and low blood pressure so ALL THE FRIES THEY ARE FOR ME. me me me."

Nope. You WILL die with a handful of fries.

Because I will shank you for bogarting all of them...
posted by Samizdata at 7:46 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love salt so much that I never have less than three kinds in the house. I season liberally with salt -- sometimes I feel like certain foods exist only as a vector for salt. Thankfully, I have chronically low sodium levels and low blood pressure, so when people look at me askance for grinding a pile of salt on my plate to dip my steak in, I can happily tell them that I'm doing it for my health.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 7:50 PM on June 3, 2012


If the bun is made from wheat, yeah, that's a no-brainer.

what if the bun is made from fried chicken though
posted by elizardbits at 7:56 PM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Or fried chicken with whole wheat breading? (I can't believe that's a thing, that it apparently effectively sells food.)
posted by XMLicious at 8:47 PM on June 3, 2012


organic free-range chunks of fried lard breaded with sprouted ancient grain breadcrumbs
posted by elizardbits at 8:53 PM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Free-range chunks of lard?
posted by XMLicious at 9:06 PM on June 3, 2012


And this is why I like Chemistry: You just redo the experiment over until you are sure, no complicated stats. At least not in synthetic chemistry, silly analytical people have to do it. But still, it isn't like you can just lock up 1000 people and put them on low salt diets, and 1000 people and put them on high salt diets, then another 1000 on controls. Ten put them all in identical conditions to ensure it would work.
However in Chem I can just use a bran new beaker, fresh bottle of solvent and some new reagents if I have to. Thus I like chemistry.
posted by Canageek at 9:08 PM on June 3, 2012


Salt is good, extra weight is bad, salt is bad, get 7 hours of sleep, salt is good sometimes, extra weight is fine, salt doesn't matter, extra weight is fine if you exercise, exercise is bad sometimes, get 9 hours of sleep, exercise is always good, drink 8 glasses a day, reduce saturated fat, eat more meat, saturated fat is ok, eat more whole grains, only eat lean meats, don't drink 8 glasses a day, avoid grains.

The only thing that stays constant is that fruits and vegetables are good, so I'm just going to eat those and cross my fingers.
posted by Defenestrator at 10:24 PM on June 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, you obviously haven't spoken with the Weston Price Foundation people, the former of whom go on about how vegetarians are unhealthy. I'm not endorsing them.
posted by raysmj at 10:31 PM on June 3, 2012


This author, a science journalist (physicist and journalist by academic training, not a biologist or MD, say) is right in there with those Weston Price Fdn. and Paleo Diet types.

From a Scientific American Blog "Cross Check: Critical Views of Science in the News."


Carbohydrates, Gary contended, have fueled the epidemic of obesity in the U.S.; cut the carbs and you can eat all the fat and protein you like ...

"Gary marshals mountains of data in support of his thesis, but I still have misgivings about it. My reaction is partly visceral; the Atkins diet—which prescribes little fruit and vegetables and lots of meat—strikes me as, well, gross. Here is Gary’s personal diet, as described on his blog:

"'I do indeed eat three eggs with cheese, bacon and sausage for breakfast every morning, typically a couple of cheeseburgers (no bun) or a roast chicken for lunch, and more often than not, a rib eye or New York steak (grass fed) for dinner, usually in the neighborhood of a pound of meat. I cook with butter and, occasionally, olive oil (the sausages). My snacks run to cheese and almonds. So lots of fat and saturated fat and very little carbohydrates.' Even disregarding the economic, environmental and ethical issues raised by consuming all this meat, the burden of proof for a diet like Gary’s should be quite high."

posted by raysmj at 10:47 PM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Defenestrator "The thing that stays constant is that fruits and vegetables are good so I'm just going to eat those and cross my fingers,"

True story: A test pilot said he once was told that carrots were good for your eyesight and also were very good for dieting because they were good raw and you could crunch away and not ever take in too many calories. So he carried around a bag of carrots in his car and that's all he ate for weeks--until he ate so many his skin turned orange and they sent him to the hospital.

He told this story on himself to illustrate that some people just don't understand the concept of moderation!
posted by Anitanola at 11:29 PM on June 3, 2012


raysmj, I basically stopped paying attention to the article as soon as I saw it was by Taubes.

Maybe salt is good and maybe salt is bad, but I'm not about to decide for myself based on anything this guy says.
posted by kyrademon at 4:09 AM on June 4, 2012


"Gary marshals mountains of data in support of his thesis, but I still have misgivings about it. My reaction is partly visceral; the Atkins diet—which prescribes little fruit and vegetables and lots of meat—strikes me as, well, gross. Here is Gary’s personal diet, as described on his blog:

Which is, of course, completely wrong and biased too.
posted by gjc at 5:15 AM on June 4, 2012


NedKoppel: "P.S. Kosher salt, please. Table salt is nasty."

You had me up until that point. People in blind taste tests can't tell the difference, once the salts are dissolved into the food.

On the food, as when it's sprinkled on fries or steak before presentation, is another matter. Kosher salt provides texture, then - but there isn't time for it to be absorbed.
posted by IAmBroom at 5:31 AM on June 4, 2012


The yeast needs salt in order to grow

Not in Florence.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:48 AM on June 4, 2012


"'I do indeed eat three eggs with cheese, bacon and sausage for breakfast every morning, typically a couple of cheeseburgers (no bun) or a roast chicken for lunch, and more often than not, a rib eye or New York steak (grass fed) for dinner, usually in the neighborhood of a pound of meat. I cook with butter and, occasionally, olive oil (the sausages). My snacks run to cheese and almonds. So lots of fat and saturated fat and very little carbohydrates.' Even disregarding the economic, environmental and ethical issues raised by consuming all this meat, the burden of proof for a diet like Gary’s should be quite high."

That's not far off from how I eat, although I also have a big salad (with lots of fat and a good amount of protein) and broccoli (cooked in butter and topped with cheese). The notion that the burden of proof for such a diet should be quite high is really just a blatant admission of enormous bias, isn't it?

The idea that fat is bad for you has been thoroughly demolished AFAICT (n.b. I am not a scientist) so what's with all the visceral "common sense" responses? This is how people evolved to eat for billions of years (except the dairy products.) Study after study* shows that it works for weight loss and lowering risk factors for practically everything. It damn near cures Type II diabetes outright.

The obesity (and associated diseases) epidemic corresponds *exactly* with both the massive low-fat, high-carb PR campaign by the government and the rise of HFCS in everything. The problem with the double cheeseburger really is the bun (and ketchup and fries and soda.) I still go through the drive thru every now and then if I'm desperate and let me tell you, I feel so much better (and less hungry!) with my double-cheeseburger-no-bun-no-ketchup than I ever did eating the same meal + bun + ketchup + fries.

*The recent Harvard study about meat being correlated with mortality is the only counterpoint I can think of, but even that had issues.
posted by callmejay at 7:01 AM on June 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Leave Garry Marshall and his mountains out of this.
posted by condour75 at 9:49 AM on June 4, 2012


The idea that fat is bad for you has been thoroughly demolished AFAICT

Depends on what kind of fat we're talking about. The Paleo/Weston Price/Low-Carb Diet, etc. idea that all fat, any fat, is good for the body all the time, even to the point of using butter and lard in everything all the time, and that all carbs (and potatoes, even, which contain all manner of nutrients and fiber, etc., and at the same time there's more than one kind of potato, y'know) are to avoided is hardly a consensus thing among those engaged in evidence-based medicine.
posted by raysmj at 11:28 AM on June 4, 2012


Maybe not a consensus thing -- but there have been exactly 17 studies that compare low-carb diets to low-fat, low-calorie diets. In every single one, the low-carb diet has not only resulted in more weight loss, but in improvements in blood markers. Here is a list of them (scroll down).

Also people, the time is gone to outright dismiss low-carb/paleo/primal or whatever you want to call it just because it doesn't make sense from a common sense point of view. This common-sensical point of view is something that was taught to us in the 1970s so much so that we've completely internalized this idea of grease = bad for you.

Decades on, we can see how that's turned out -- people have drastically reduced their consumption of fat, while continuing to increase their consumption of carbs. I really don't think it's a coincidence that there's this inflection point in the graph of obesity and overweight just at the point when the new guidelines were released -- suddenly the growth in obesity accelerated dramatically. It's time to look at the evidence critically -- and when you do I think you'll be convinced (as I was) that the US government made the wrong decision and we've been following misguided (though well-intentioned) health advice for years. The problem is the juggernaut is hard to turn around, but I really think it's possible/
posted by peacheater at 1:06 PM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


> I figured out recently after years that I was way over-salting pasta water when I started cooking it for my daughter and I'd try a piece plain and it was like I'd cooked it in seawater

"The rule of thumb when it comes to pasta... is that the cooking water should have the approximate salinity of seawater -- about 1 tablespoons salt for 4 quarts water."

-The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, 3rd edition (2010)
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:01 PM on June 4, 2012


Seawater is much much saltier than that. About 35g per litre, so maybe 120-130g in the amount of water you're talking about. The idea about cooking in water as salty as seawater is a perennial myth. People just don't realise how salty seawater is.
posted by howfar at 2:44 PM on June 4, 2012


Americans eat shitloads of fat. Who are you trying to kid?
posted by raysmj at 4:54 PM on June 4, 2012


Trends in Meat Consumption, from the NIH (final version published in Public Health Nutrition), from 2011. You can also easily find articles by the dozen that show facts and figures regarding American portion sizes, AND articles about studies showing harm (and rebound effect) of low-carb diets.
posted by raysmj at 5:16 PM on June 4, 2012


raysmj: The idea that fat is bad for you has been thoroughly demolished AFAICT

Depends on what kind of fat we're talking about. The Paleo/Weston Price/Low-Carb Diet, etc. idea that all fat, any fat, is good for the body all the time, even to the point of using butter and lard in everything all the time, and that all carbs (and potatoes, even, which contain all manner of nutrients and fiber, etc., and at the same time there's more than one kind of potato, y'know) are to avoided is hardly a consensus thing among those engaged in evidence-based medicine.
raysmj, I honestly have no idea what you are trying to communicate here. Try again?
posted by IAmBroom at 9:53 AM on June 5, 2012


Thanks to this thread, I have learned that a Selmelier is a thing. I'm unsure what I think of having this knowledge, but thank you anyway.

Selmelier. A term coined by "an American food writer and entrepreneur". I say send him to the StartupBus; let him work on his pitches and leverage some networking or something.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 12:16 PM on June 5, 2012


Maybe not a consensus thing -- but there have been exactly 17 studies that compare low-carb diets to low-fat, low-calorie diets. In every single one, the low-carb diet has not only resulted in more weight loss, but in improvements in blood markers.

Decades on, we can see how that's turned out
--peacheater

We don't have to wait decades. There's been a long term study of a very large group of people who span different cultures and income levels. The one thing they have in common is that they are Seventh Day Adventists, a large percentage of whom eat an exclusively vegetarian diet.

And the results are...

They are much healthier than the rest of us, and live eight to ten years longer.

Refined carbs are bad, but veggies and fruit are not. But I'm not a vegetarian. I like meat too much.
posted by eye of newt at 12:42 AM on June 7, 2012


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