Sometimes government heel-dragging is a good thing

In one of my first Daily Dispatches back in the summer of 2012, I questioned the science behind the government’s “low-salt-diet-prevents-heart-disease” mantra. And since then, more and more evidence has come to light supporting my view.

The government–and the “Amen chorus” at the American Heart Association–recommends virtually everyone limit salt intake to 1,500 mg per day. But in 2013, the Institute of Medicine published a report stating there’s no good evidence to support lowering sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day.

In fact, lowering it too far can cause serious harm…

Earlier this year, a major study found men and women who follow low-salt diets actually have a 25 percent increased risk of suffering a cardiovascular event. Plus, they’re far more likely to die early. (Thankfully, almost no one can actually meet these ridiculously low salt guidelines anyway.)

But the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) rarely pays attention to all the actual science. In fact, it’s preparing to issue new salt guidelines for the food industry, asking it to lower sodium levels voluntarily. According to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, sodium is “of huge interest and concern.” And she hopes the new, low-salt guidelines will be issued “relatively soon.”

Of course, “relatively soon” in FDA terms means we probably won’t have the guidelines until 2027.

Actually, waiting for the FDA is nothing new to those who practice natural and nutritional approaches to health. When Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) in 1994, they mandated the FDA develop “Good Manufacturing Practices” (GMPs) for dietary supplement products. DSHEA is an example of a good law. It reflects the will and interests of the citizens (something rare these days). And it was a good idea to require GMPs.

The only problem…it took the FDA 13 years to publish the GMPs. (Actual businesses develop these types of guidelines routinely, in a matter of months, not over more than a decade.) And by the time the FDA acted, high-quality manufacturers had long since developed their own GMPs, which met or even succeeded the eventual FDA regulations. (Case in point, I personally perform due diligence so I know the manufacturers of my Smart Science Nutritionals meet the highest manufacturing standards.)

But if we have to wait another 13 years for the FDA to issue its new, low-sodium guidelines for the food industry… I won’t complain one bit.

In fact, this is one instance where the government can drag its heels all it likes. You see, we don’t need new, low-salt guidelines for the food industry. Salt is not a “poison,” like pesticides, chemical additives, and contaminants in food. A “zero intake or exposure” goal for those substances is appropriate.

But salt is a building block of life. And some regular salt intake is critical for metabolism and physiology. It’s a major electrolyte in the body, required for hydration and cellular functions.

Actually, the blood cells and internal body swim in a sea of salt water.

In fact, biologists believe the body’s salt levels reflect the levels found in the earth’s oceans millions of years ago, at the time when animal life first emerged from the sea onto the land.

You see, the ocean wasn’t always as salty as it is today…

The salt in our oceans actually starts on land. And as water drains from the land, it carries salt and minerals with it into the water. So, the salt accumulates in the ocean, slowly raising the salinity. When ocean water evaporates into the clouds, the salt remains behind in the seas. (Earth scientists call this whole process the

“water cycle.” I learned about it in sixth grade. Too bad they don’t repeat the lesson in medical schools.)

But the body is not like the oceans, in this respect. Your body loses salt all day, every day. In fact, the kidneys must excrete some sodium in order to make urine and drain liquid wastes from the body. We also lose some salt through the feces, while the distal colon reabsorbs the water content from the intestines.

We also lose salt in our sweat. That’s why it’s critical to get enough water and electrolytes (including salt) to stay hydrated. Furthermore, certain herbs like rooibos energize cells so they can make their own water, beyond external fluid intake.

It’s dangerous to lower salt intake too much, as that study I told you about last month found. Likewise, it’s dangerous to lower cholesterol levels too low, since cholesterol is a building block of hormones and cellular structures.

When government “experts” warn you to reduce salt and cholesterol in order to prevent heart disease, they are barking up the wrong tree. Instead, we need to pay more attention to stress reduction and blood pressure control.

Of course, if you’re eating a truly balanced, healthy diet, you’ll naturally reduce your sodium intake to some degree. Packaged processed foods are exceptionally high in added sodium. But eliminating them from your diet is a smart move, regardless. And if you want to add flavor to you cooking, use fresh herbs, garlic, onions, and olive oil. Make a summer feast using nature’s fresh bounty–especially now during the summer growing season.

The FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg says the FDA can make, “a big impact working with the industry to bring sodium levels down.” But you don’t need the FDA’s useless sodium guidelines to prevent heart disease. Just sprinkle some commons sense, the one ingredient sure to be in short supply with the FDA and other government agencies.


1. “FDA prepping long-awaited plan to reduce salt,” Associated Press, ( 6/17/2014