The Salt in our Blood

How halophobia killed the humble potato

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What happened to french fries in America? Did I pass through some membrane into another dimension where salty foods are verboten?

If so, get me out of here!!!

In all sincerity, I haven’t truly enjoyed a french fry in quite some time due to the country’s growing halophobia. That’s correct, halophobia: the exaggerated fear of salt in one’s diet. Admittedly not a term currently found in dictionaries, but I can hope to introduce this word into the already bloated English lexicon. It is this fear of salt that threatens the nobility of the french fry as the crispy vehicle of ketchup.

I am obliged, insofar as I am able, to combat this lack of seasoning and see its proponents defeated. Who eats french fries with no salt? Who thought that was a good idea? That’s like ordering an iced tea without first saying ‘Long Island.’ Screw that noise. Pass the damn salt, please!

Many prolonged and controversial arguments have taken place debating the contributions of sodium consumption as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Even this article, published in 1990, laments the association of high salt intake and high blood pressure without sufficient evidence to back the claim. All is made worse by friends and family members who vilify one’s use of salt after attending a predigested health lesson by Dr. Oz; such condemnation begins to look ludicrous following the discovery made by the British Medical Journal:

[Researchers] selected 40 episodes from last year, identifying 479 separate medical recommendations. After paging through the relevant medical research, they found evidence only supported 46 percent of [Dr. Oz’s] recommendations, contradicted 15 percent and wasn’t available for 39 percent.

But enough about Dr. Oz.

In a previous post, I berated health professionals for their impetuous promulgation of low-sodium diets for all people despite a recent meta-analysis suggesting the relationship between sodium intake and hypertension is more nuanced. In summary, the Lancet meta-analysis found that diets high in sodium were associated with poorer outcomes only for individuals with hypertension, while diets low in sodium were associated with poorer outcomes for all individuals.

It’s not as if the Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization, and the American Heart Associated would change their stance on salt based on evidence. Pssh! Don’t be silly. Perhaps if there were some report published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) that alerted people to the paucity of evidence in favor of low-salt diets. Maybe then, public health officials would see their folly. Just maybe…

Slim chance, I suppose.

Let none be deceived. Cardiovascular disease is a significant problem in the United States, claiming the lives of 610,000 people annually. Improving outcomes requires us to conform to the latest scientific consensus, not because we hope to seek refuge in that consensus, but because that consensus has survived the most rigorous scrutiny. We must inform people that medicine isn’t categorical or absolute, but is instead highly nuanced. It is an art and a science.

But if we are to save Solanum tuberosum and restore them to their crispy glory, we need to discard our halophobia and dispense a bit more salt. For a french fry without salt is a french fry not worth eating.

1 comments on “The Salt in our Blood”

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