Good news for fans of salt: a new study has found that there are no health benefits to cutting down on salt. Though national dietary guidelines have set recommended salt levels for many Americans at just half a teaspoon a day, levels that low can actually increase the risk of heart attack. The NYT reports:
[T]he new expert committee, commissioned by the Institute of Medicine at the behest of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said there was no rationale for anyone to aim for sodium levels below 2,300 milligrams a day. The group examined new evidence that had emerged since the last such report was issued, in 2005.“As you go below the 2,300 mark, there is an absence of data in terms of benefit and there begin to be suggestions in subgroup populations about potential harms,” said Dr. Brian L. Strom, chairman of the committee and a professor of public health at the University of Pennsylvania. He explained that the possible harms included increased rates of heart attacks and an increased risk of death.
As with most things, salt is apparently best consumed in moderation. That’s good news, because salt is the chef’s best tool in the kitchen. A pinch of it can go a long way in bringing out other flavors in a dish.Nutrition is far from a settled science. Indeed, experts are still in the dark about some very important questions in other disciplines—such as, to pick completely at random, climate science. Not surprisingly, when you try to predict future developments of an immensely complicated system involving countless variables using relatively simple models, sometimes you get it wrong.So while we enjoy the new technologies and marvel at the deeper understanding of the world that science brings, we should keep in mind the fundamentally provisional nature of science, and we should always take the pronouncements of its practitioners with a grain of salt.[Salt image courtesy of Wikimedia]