There can be little argument that the debate over salt and our health has become entirely polarised.
On the one side, the anti-salt campaigners continue to lobby for a reduction in our daily salt intake. Based on what may seem reasonable but has been described as inconclusive research and inaccurate interpretations of results, they claim that our current level of salt consumption causes increased blood pressure and, as a consequence, heart disease.
On the other side are those who claim that based on inadequate research, salt is simply being given a bad name. And more seriously, they warn that due to the lack of research, if we continue to pursue a low-salt agenda we’re potentially walking blindly into another health crisis. Salt’s proponents point to the 2008 Italian study. Clinical trials amongst patients with heart failure found that salt reduction increases the risk of death. This calls into question the idea of population-wide salt reduction which ignores individuals’ dietary needs, especially those with underlying medical complaints.
But it seems the evidence to support either point of view is far from clear-cut. As we’ve mentioned before on SaltSense. Just last year the influential American Institute of Medicine found insufficient evidence of the benefits of low-salt diets.
Crucially, unlike many previous studies and reports, these findings cannot so easily be dismissed for simply going against prevailing beliefs as the investigating panel consisted of members from both sides of the debate.
Yet the Department of Health and our government continue to pursue a policy aligned to the disputed evidence that could itself be putting tens of thousands of lives at risk.
So we were pleased to read that the DH has scrapped plans to toughen salt reduction targets in some foods. Targets are to be frozen for bacon, ham, sausages, pasties, pies and burgers, and relaxed for products including waffles and pancakes.
And with plans for further reductions on hold it seems like the perfect opportunity to undertake the new, population wide studies we so badly need to determine the real effects of salt consumption on our health.