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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13086/the-salt-of-life/

The salt of life

June 26, 2010 by

“The Institute of Medicine estimated that reducing sodium intake could prevent 100,000 deaths in the U.S. every year.”

Prevent? They really mean delay — unless, of course, reduced-salt man is immortal.

Here’s the key statement: Nine of every 10 adults in the U.S. consume too much sodium from eating pizza, potato chips and other foods made with salt, raising the annual death toll from heart attacks and strokes, according to a federal report.

A few years ago I read a study that claimed regular exercise increases, on average, life expectancy. A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation showed the hours of exercise required to extend life nearly equaled the added years.

All good and well for those of us who enjoy working out. But for those who loath exercise, each additional hour of life is spent on a task they consider to be truly irksome — exercise.

The point is no one should attempt to impose their value judgements on others. Cajoling is fine. But no one should work to enlist government to force others to make less-desirable choices in order to extend life.

If someone wants to eat pizza and chips, let them have at it. Their choices are their business. And their business alone.


Steve Hogan June 26, 2010 at 8:11 pm

But what would the busy-bodies do if they weren’t imposing their views on others at gunpoint? Get a job? Get a life?

Dave Albin June 26, 2010 at 8:18 pm

The one issue that seems to be lost with the whole salt-demonizing crowd is that salt is a preservative – most microbial life cannot survive with a lot of salt around screwing with its membranes. I think it will be possible that they (probably the FDA) would lower the salt to levels where you would begin to see obligate pathogens causing more foodborne illness. This is especially serious in young children and the elderly. So, not only is this imposing value judgements on people, but it could be endangering their lives.

michael June 28, 2010 at 7:21 am

Salt is a necessity, a nutrient we can’t readily do without. For that matter, so is animal fat.

But either one, taken in excess, becomes a health problem also. And we Americans have been the beneficiaries of economic policies that make certain the public has cheap food to put on the table. So we gorge ourselves on cheap foods full of the substances we love best: fat, salt and sugar. And we become, increasingly, uncomfortably obese, inert and subject to health issues like diabetes and heart disease.

Each individual makes his or her own ‘choices’ in this matter… although I’m not certain much choice is involved. But you should recognize the concern most Americans have over this issue for what it is. It’s a cash flow concern. We have opted for a society where healthcare is so expensive we have to address the cost collectively. And that, by the way, is irrespective of whether we prefer to have the state manage our collective insurance policy, in the form of Medicare-Medicaid, or whether we prefer to buy privately run policies, and add to the other costs those of ensuring a profit to the principals running the plan.

As we view healthcare this way, whenever our neighbor becomes obese, he costs us money. Because the plan we subscribe to includes paying for his care as well as for our own. It’s a group plan. And so we look down our noses at his gargantuan food habits, not from some sense of moral shortcoming on his part, but with an eye to our own wallets.

Suggestions? Some better way of doing things?

Matthew Swaringen June 29, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Provide no tax incentives for businesses to provide health care so that people pay for it themselves. (3rd party payment systems never fail to result in constantly rising prices). End the FDA and federal licensing programs which artificially restrict the supply of doctors and treatments.

This would at least let the states make their own decisions on these matters, and people through freedom of movement would choose the best place to live that suited their needs. The one-size-fits-all government we have now is horrendous.

Matt R. June 26, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Natural salt with all of its original minerals intact is very healthy.

Dave Albin June 26, 2010 at 11:28 pm

Refined salt is actually made for industrial purposes. Only about 30% of refined salt is used for human consumption (http://krebs-swiss.com/salex.pdf). The “impurities” in unrefined salt are minerals (same article), and thus, it is healthier. My guess is that when regulators and the public started talking about the need for pure, standardized food (maybe after Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”), refined salt came in fashion.

michael June 28, 2010 at 7:30 am

We prefer the white stuff. Refined salt is white, while sea salt is more of a buff color. Yuck.

Same thing with rice. Most everyone prefers hulled rice, with the nutrients removed and the product shiny white. Asians with this preference used to suffer beri-beri, from the lack of B-complex vitamins. And Americans used to want Wonder bread, all white and spongy. Wheat bread was, you know… brown.

We’ve grown up a little since then. But one thing is very likely: low-sodium foods can’t be as good for you as sodium foods. What they do is substitute magnesium chloride for sodium chloride salt. Ever taste the stuff? It’s vile, and tastes like it must be a systemic poison. I doubt your body likes that much magnesium in its electrolytes.

So let’s hear it for high-salt diets, and endemic hypertension!

GUILT June 28, 2010 at 9:31 am

It’s so wonderful you’ve finally come to see things for what they are. Good work, citizen. Please return to your post.

newson June 26, 2010 at 10:38 pm

food moralizers, doctors, board members, and savoury-food lovers all die.

Marc Sheffner June 27, 2010 at 5:08 am

You mean, “In the long run, we’re all dead”?

Capt Mike June 27, 2010 at 7:57 am

Yep, avoid the Great Financial Reckoning. Adopt the “Salt Standard”.

Randy June 27, 2010 at 8:46 am

Ok. So he got ONE</b? thing right.

Bruce Koerber June 26, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Is Too Much Salt Harmful Enough To Cause Alarm?

Lying, stealing, counterfeiting, imprisoning, and killing are all far worse than too much salt in our diet.

First let us get rid of the true blight on humanity – the ego-driven interventionists who use the State to oppress.

David C June 27, 2010 at 12:30 am

2.4 million people die in the US every year, mostly of natural causes. So I guess if you extend those lives an average of 15 days from eating less salt, it will roll over 100000 into the next year. So for chrissake, you’re telling me that I’ve gotta eat bland food for the average of 70 years to save a me a measly 15 days on my death bed? Why don’t we talk about the 40-50% of my life earnings the government steals away from me in taxes, not to mention stealing it again from my kids after I die as a death tax.

Jonathan Finegold Catalán June 27, 2010 at 12:59 am

Not to be a hater, but I can’t help but to question the intentions of the Federal government. The Federal government wants to reduce the consumption of less healthy foods, including those with high amounts of salt, but then give food stamps to those people who are “too fat” to work. I have worked cashier jobs, and it’s too often that I saw and still see people on EBT buying fatty and salty foods with their welfare.

It seems to me that the real intentions behind any government programs to reduce consumption of unhealthy foods is really to raise revenue.

newson June 27, 2010 at 2:06 am

true. clothing this cynical self-serving policy in the camouflage of benevolence is sickening.

Todd S. June 27, 2010 at 7:09 am

You need to define “unhealthy” as well. For roughly 30 years the USDA has been pushing their low-fat, high-carb agenda on the populace (remember, the base of your diet should be grains). For roughly 30 years, waistlines have been rapidly increasing. Now, I don’t want to get into a correlation vs causation debate here, but something smells rotten there. Could it be that those starchy, grainy carbs the USDA is pimping-out are also where billions of dollars of taxpayer money is spent on subsidies?

Gerry June 27, 2010 at 8:46 am

Todd, you may be on to something!

Dave Albin June 27, 2010 at 9:16 am

It’s also a bias in favor of non-animal products. A lot of university researchers are vegan or vegan-leaning, and thus, produce research that indicates the health benefits of eating grains and plants over animal products (and, of course, there are some health benefits of doing this). However, what they won’t tell you are the benefits of balanced diets. Or, the vegan mother who fed her baby a strict vegan diet until he died of malnourishment.

Of course, you are right about subsidies, high-fructose corn syrup as a result, and sugar tariffs that prevent cheap sugar from flowing into the USA. This is also part of a bigger problem of decreased activity among people.

michael June 28, 2010 at 7:39 am

JFC: Good insight. I also have stood in line behind fat people with their carts piled high with Ho-Ho’s, Twinkies, Yum Yums and Dum Dums. They all pay with food stamps.

That’s why when the DC government administered their program they made taking a course in general nutrition a prerequisite for qualifying to receive stamps. Which I thought was a good idea. The point was to end up with a generation of poor kids who were at least healthier than their adults.

Even so, if you ate at restaurants in or near the projects you might have ragamuffins in clothes so dirty they always looked brown come up to your table and ask if you were going to eat everything on your plate. These kids were just hungry.

RTB June 28, 2010 at 9:43 pm

So what’s your real point? Do we free up enterprise to create more wealth for all, or do we stifle it even even more for increased transfer payments and continue this vicious downward cycle? Pray tell.

michael June 29, 2010 at 12:20 pm

We have hungry people in this country. I support helping them buy food. And I think it’s worth the price we pay. Currently we spend $54 billion on food stamps, one more billion on child nutrition programs and $7.777 billion on the WIC program.


Compare this with the cost of a year’s worth of fighting in Afghanistan– variously $43 billion or $100 billion, depending on whether you’re counting from the Congressional Research Service’s data or this year’s supplemental budget request. I’d rather see my money going toward feeding hungry kids than bombing Asian backwaters where everyone hates us. Besides, no way we can ever win this war. We’d have to occupy the place forever. So if I were in charge of budget cutting, this is where I’d begin.

SirThinkALot June 29, 2010 at 12:34 pm

I dont want my money spent on either one…but thats just me.

RWW June 29, 2010 at 12:36 pm

We have hungry people in this country.

Who is “we”?

I support helping them buy food.

Then you should do so, and stop wasting time and money trying to force your way on others with threats.

Compare this with the cost of a year’s worth of fighting in Afghanistan

Why? Are you under the impression that this is a Republican forum? That comparison is meaningless.

I’d rather see my money going toward feeding hungry kids than bombing Asian backwaters where everyone hates us.

I’d rather you stop stealing from me, so I can work to help others in whatever ways I see fit.

Besides, no way we can ever win this war…

Again, completely irrelevant. Perhaps you should have a sense for the nature of the website you’re looking at before leaving comments.

SirThinkALot June 29, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Micheal, perhaps we should clarify a few things about the regulars here:

-We are not Republicans, almost all of us have nothing but contempt for the Republican party(and a significant number of us have contempt for politics in general)

-Most of us are not ‘Tea Partiers’

-We do not support pointless wars. Including phony ones like ‘The war on drugs’ ‘War on poverty’ ‘war on terror’ etc.

-a great many of us are anarcho-capitalists

-Most of us are not fans of Glenn Beck, I actually do watch his show regularly, but also frequently disagree with him. Particularly his support of pointless wars, and his idolozation of Lincoln.

mr taco June 29, 2010 at 1:30 pm
mr taco June 28, 2010 at 10:13 pm

michael im from nicaragua so stop your bitching

Shay June 27, 2010 at 4:00 am

Let’s say they’re correct, and reducing salt intake would extend everyone’s lives by one year each. Is this still justification for using force to bring this about? Each person should be able to make the tradeoff between foods with more salt, and whatever life extension this brings, or hell, even to belive (perhaps correctly) that it would actually shorten life. It’s just a sepecific case of a small group trying to impose their economic calculations on everyone, as if the same conditions hold for all, and such choices would yield a net benefit in every case.

Shay June 27, 2010 at 6:21 am

Even more to the point: we could probably extend everyone’s life by putting them in very controlled environments with controlled feeding etc. This would of course greatly reduce enjoyment of life, just as forced salt intake reduction would to a lesser extent. I can just hear someone objecting, “But salt is unheatlhy! Why wouldn’t you want to reduce it?” As others have mentioned, its health effects are in dispute. Even if you were a god and knew that it were a poison in absolutely any amount, that wouldn’t justify using force against people’s voluntary consumption of it. And for the record, I personally use very little salt, find many pre-made foods too salty, and handle that by preparing my own meals, rather than forcing my personal salt habits on anyone else.

Horst Muhlmann June 28, 2010 at 9:15 am

Let’s say they’re correct, and reducing salt intake would extend everyone’s lives by one year each. Is this still justification for using force to bring this about?

We would extend everyone’s lives a heck of a lot more if we ditched statism.

Here’s a thought experiment. What would the life expectancy be if the Romans had installed a capitalistic order and we had it ever since? 400, 500 years? More?

michael June 28, 2010 at 4:06 pm

“We would extend everyone’s lives a heck of a lot more if we ditched statism.”

With an armed population reliant only on its own self-defense and a collapsed economy without functioning police forces, you don’t think the homicide rate would be higher than it is now? Desperate people would be trying to kill you every night when it got dark, to take your stuff. One night I expect they’d succeed.

That’s the way it works currently, in places with little or no functioning government. You have to hire your own armed guards… and hope you’re paying them well enough that they don’t turn out to be the ones who kill you one night.

mr taco June 28, 2010 at 10:15 pm

try the old west

Horst Muhlmann June 28, 2010 at 11:28 pm

You mean like what happens in big cities?

Dave Albin June 28, 2010 at 11:58 pm

This is happening in countries where there is no, or essentially no, free market, and maybe strong military rule. Shortages and oppression result in aggression, theft, etc.

michael June 29, 2010 at 4:13 pm

No, Dave, this happens mostly in countries within the US trading sphere– countries that have been penetrated by free trade policies that keep a large proportion of the population locked out from access to money. It would be the same here if the winners were allowed to finish the work of sucking up all the available money. The losing 3/4 of the population would have the choice of either dying or stealing. My guess? They would steal, just like the losing class in Colombia, or Nigeria.

Genuinely autocratic states have small crime problems as a rule. First, totalitarian governments enforce their monopoly on violence to the degree that competing criminals are just eliminated. (Aggression is forcibly eradicated.) Second, socialist states have both a greater equality of wealth and a lesser amount of it. There’s less reason to steal and also less TO steal. (In a shortage, what’s to steal? Hungry people only steal when there’s plenty of stuff but it all belongs to people who keep it locked up tight.)

mr taco June 29, 2010 at 10:18 pm

michael ………….

just stop go to the forums already

Dimitrios Tsatsas June 27, 2010 at 5:05 am

I believe that extending the life span is good for the state because it will provide them with arguments to raise the retirement age or decrease retirement payments and thereby force us all to work more/longer. Statism in its unmasked glory, isn’t it?

G June 27, 2010 at 11:30 am

Yes I suppose it would be ideal for the state if we were all in perfect health until the day we die. Why don’t they just get it over with and force everyone to join the army?

Sean June 27, 2010 at 5:26 am

Gary Taubes was writing about the shoddy science behind salt research more than 10 years ago, http://www.nasw.org/awards/1999/99Taubesarticle1.htm yet the ‘salt is evil’ dogma just keeps gaining momentum.

RWW June 27, 2010 at 11:17 am

Gary Taubes is great on dietary stuff. His work is part of what inspired me to ignore the state-sponsored “science” and start a high-fat diet, thanks to which I lost about 100 pounds in less than a year.

GUILT June 27, 2010 at 5:56 am

Good morning, citizen. It is your mandated awakening time at 06:00 on 2057/6/27. Your ration of nutrient sludge has been prepared and is now ready for your consumption. The public transport will arrive in 10 minutes.

Have a Nice Day.

Dave Albin June 27, 2010 at 9:21 am

What a beautiful day. It is so beautiful here. I can’t wait to experience this beautiful day. (Repeat over and over with everyone else simultaneously).

Michael A. Clem June 28, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Another beautiful morning in Paradise:


John Taylor June 27, 2010 at 6:24 am

Every time I hear another health for scare I go to junkscience.com and get the real facts. Steve Milloy’s site has changed a bit since it’s original page when you could do the junkman quiz and learn about the common food scares and the conclusive evidence against those scares, or at least prove the scares were not yet proven i.e. there have been many studies that came back inconclusive. Salt in so called excessive amounts that is amounts that the average consumer has was one the foods tested that it has yet to be proven as dangerous, many studies have come back inconclusive. So enjoy. Steve Milloy is connected to the Cato organisation but I believe his web site is good for libertarian’s and others cynical about so called bad foods. Thats even though Cato is a beltway libertarian group.

Gerry June 27, 2010 at 8:51 am

I have a history of Crohn’s disease and have had large portions of my large intestine removed. My doctor informed me, that with this missing, I would have difficulty absorbing fats, salts and proteins, and therefore should have a “McDonalds” diet, heaving in meats that are high in iron and fat. I attend the company health fair every year, and my cholesterol is fine, and I am 6 feet tall and 165lbs. My coworkers all think I am a health nut.

If the government starts really pushing this, they could SHORTEN my life! Typical one-size thinking. If it is good for me, must be good for everyone! If I tried to enforce my diet on others, it could have terrible consequences for them. So I do what seems so obvious: I leave them be.

GUILT June 27, 2010 at 9:10 am

Why should the structure of production be changed as to accommodate a minority? The massive inefficiency inherent in the market system is it wastes its precious time and resources catering to the petty wants and needs of individuals rather than that of the whole of humanity. To maximize efficiency in the production structure it is necessary that the requirements of sustenance for all individuals be homogeneous; If there are some for whom their ration is insufficient then we are better off without them.

SirThinkALot June 27, 2010 at 9:12 pm

I hope that was sarcasm GUILT….

What about people who have a moral/ethical objection to certain foods/combinations of foods? Such as Orthodox Jews, Would you propose forcing them eat non-kosher for the sake of attaining ‘efficency’?

Personally I think its amazing that the market can provide for even teh most niche products. That you can walk into just about any supermarket and find ‘organic’ produce, kosher foods of all sorts, vegetarian substitutes for just about any animal product, low fat/salt version of just about every kind of food, and the stuff that most Americans eat is a wonderful achievement to me.

Daniel June 27, 2010 at 9:16 pm

He’s being sarcastic, he just stayed “in character” for a few posts

In reply to what you said
“Personally I think its amazing that the market can provide for even teh most niche products. That you can walk into just about any supermarket and find ‘organic’ produce, kosher foods of all sorts, vegetarian substitutes for just about any animal product, low fat/salt version of just about every kind of food, and the stuff that most Americans eat is a wonderful achievement to me.”

Not if the federal government has anything to say about that!

SirThinkALot June 27, 2010 at 9:28 pm

“He’s being sarcastic, he just stayed “in character” for a few posts”

Ah yea it would have helped if I’d looked back at his earlier posts first… I get it now.

“Not if the federal government has anything to say about that!”

Grrrrrrrrrr…..now I’m mad….

GUILT June 28, 2010 at 4:52 am

What about people who have a moral/ethical objection to certain foods/combinations of foods? Such as Orthodox Jews, Would you propose forcing them eat non-kosher for the sake of attaining ‘efficency’?

Of course; If there were individuals who, for whatever reason, objected to the existence of bridges, should we tear all the bridges down? Allowing individual whims to rule the world is just plain silly.

michael June 28, 2010 at 7:44 am

Guilt– They’ve already come up with just such a universal food. And it contains nutrients in precisely those amounts the body requires. It’s called Soylent Green.

It actually carries another benefit. Cheap to produce, it keeps population growth in check. The only thing you have to do to keep the product clean and nutritious is to take the shorts and shirts out of the bin before processing.

GUILT June 28, 2010 at 8:19 am

It is preferable to call it Nutrient Sludge. By attempting to mask the true nature of things you place obstacles in the way of thought, and prevent what must be done from being done.

Bruce Koerber June 27, 2010 at 9:34 am

Classical Liberalism Is The “Salt Of The Earth!”

Salt was once a very widely used medium of exchange. Could it be that the counterfeiters are afraid that people may again choose it instead of the worthless pieces of paper backed by nothing but lies from Bernanke and his overlord, the unConstitutional coup?

In other words, it could be said that classicall liberalism is the “salt of the earth!”

Shay June 27, 2010 at 9:40 am

Would it pain you to just go one post here without using the term “unConstitutional coup” (with that silly capital letter in it)? By using it sparingly and where it really helps, you don’t water it down to a meaningless term that you have.

Bruce Koerber June 27, 2010 at 10:15 am

When it becomes meaningless won’t we all rejoice!

I do not use it every time I post so that is not a fair comment.

The ‘silly capital letter’ is an emphasis that I choose and I am not sure why you want to pretend that you have some right to put constraints on the use of language tools.

Hopefully I answered your concerns.

Gil June 27, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Which Constitution? When Libertarians use the ‘appeal to the U.S. Constitution’ argument they’re talking of the time when the U.S. Constitution had ten amendments.

Bruce Koerber June 28, 2010 at 6:46 pm

What Is The unConstitutional Coup?

Although stabs were made from the inception of the Constitution it was the scheming that took place in 1912 that launched the unConstitutional coup. It goes in cycles – the power grab, then a lull as things settle at that rung, then a new realization that another power grab is possible. We are currently witnessing such a power grab. The only way to stop this is to call it what it is – an unConstitutional coup – and to get enough people to recognize it for what it is. Bringing it out into the light will kill this beast of the shadows.

Mike June 27, 2010 at 10:17 am

All well and good. Just don’t expect me, a physician, or the “health care system” to take care of your future health problems because you made poor choices today. If you have a heart attack because you have become overweight with high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol – then it’s on you. If you want “freedom of choice” then you have to take full responsibility for the results of those choices, including the the future financial cost. You should expect to pay out of pocket for pharmaceuticals, repeated blood testing, angiograms, coronary artery stenting and/ or bipasses. Or you can opt for “full freedom” and die at home like our grandparents did.

Seattle June 27, 2010 at 10:36 am

Or, health insurance companies could charge higher premiums for higher-risk individuals, which is currently illegal to do.

Shay June 27, 2010 at 11:27 am

Mike, agreed. I think each person should pay for his own health care, so that the costs of his lifestyle choices are directly paid by him and him alone (he can of course pool his money with others of a similar lifestyle in order to cover unlikely but large costs, i.e. insurance). Then there’s no need look down on such people, since they are paying their own way. Those whom we should look down on are the ones who simultaneously force us to pay for others’ health costs, then use that as justification for dictating what we can legally purchase to eat.

SirThinkALot June 27, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Mike, why you suggest that people should have to ‘pay their own way’ for the health costs of their lifestyle as if it were a bad thing? Thats the way it SHOULD be.

vc June 27, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Please define “poor choices”.

Diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol mostly exist independently of obesity (ie most people with hypertension are not obese).

SirThinkALot June 29, 2010 at 12:49 pm

In fact, when you actually begin looking at the studies that ‘prove’ obesidy causes heart disease, diabaties, etc, it becomes clear how tenuious the connection really is.

The biggest problem is that nobody has ever been able to give a causation between the two. I E nobody can explain WHY your weight being over a, mostly-arbitrary number, should cause these things. And in any case, underweight people and ‘yo-yo’ dieters(that is people who consistantly lose and gain weight), are at far greater risk for health problems that overweight people who maintain a steady weight.

It’s also a fact that an individuals weight is dertermined to a certain extent by genetics. Some people will simply never be as skinny as the establishment says they should be. The best advice for most people is to not worry about your weight and follow the common sense things doctors have been saying for years: eat a nice balanced diet, avoid refined grains and sugars, and excercize regularly. To be honest I think obesity and the health problems it alleged causes are both the result of people not doing these things.

Michael A. Clem June 28, 2010 at 11:15 am

Freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin. When responsibility is restricted or removed, this is the same as restricting freedom.

RTB June 28, 2010 at 9:57 pm

I don’t expect you to do anything for me without voluntary exchange.

Mark June 27, 2010 at 10:30 am

Salt about the only source of iodine in the typical American’s diet. Gotta have it.

Michael A. Clem June 28, 2010 at 12:47 pm

In the grocery store, table salt is available both with and without iodide, at the same prices. So consumers could still not be getting their iodine. Don’t know about salt added to processed foods.

Ed Seas June 27, 2010 at 6:12 pm

100% of humans who drinks water dies.


Richie June 27, 2010 at 10:47 pm

Therefore, we need to ban water.

Kakugo June 28, 2010 at 2:59 am

First they take the salt away, next God only know what they will force us to eat as a “substitute” for salt. Or sugar. Or apples. Or cheese.

PS: it will thrill many of you to know that the City of Milan has struck an agreement with the local Bakers’ Guild/Union to reduce the content of salt in bread baked in the city… of course they didn’t ask for the consent of the governed nor mention this in their electoral program.

Vanmind June 30, 2010 at 10:00 am

Salt is currency competition to one-world criminals. They must ban it.

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