Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Salt of the earth

Salt. We taste it, add it, love it, hate it, a staff of life, a past currency and a worry for doctors, dietitians and patients alike. Dr. Frieden, the commissioner of New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, is targeting salt. He is waging a campaign to decrease the amount of sodium America eats. How, you may wonder? By targeting processed and packaged foods since they contribute 80% of sodium in the average American diet. Frieden, who pushed NY to eliminate trans fats and post nutrition information in restaurants will focus on the foods that contribute the most sodium to people’s diets and cut the level by 25 percent. If the food industry refuses he threatens to consider other options, like legislation.

Our society has learned to like very salty foods. We have grown use to the taste and with salt the acquired taste is a habit that can be tamed. Dr. Sonia Angell, director of cardiovascular health for NYC, said: “We’ve created a whole society of people accustomed to food that is really, really salty. We have to undo that.”
Not everyone is salt sensitive but for people who are susceptible, high levels of sodium raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
There is also some evidence that excess sodium encourages fat development and storage; weight gain from both increased fat cells and water weight.
And although doctors have been telling people to cut back on salt for years, it isn't working.
So Dr. Frieden encourages, " a quiet, mass reduction in sodium levels"or stealth health. He believes if we lower sodium levels by 50 percent, as many as 150,000 American lives could be saved each year. And these intentions make him, "the salt of the earth."

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