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When Ideology Replaces Good Science

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Ideology – shared ideas or beliefs that serve to justify and support the interests of a particular group – is not evidence-based, as is science, but vigorously excludes contrary beliefs and even punishes persons supporting them.

The drive to bring about “sweeping, sharp reductions in salt consumption” is a  case in point. There is no question at all that some people with high blood pressure may benefit from moderating their salt intake, but calls by health policy makers for deep, population-wide cuts is arguably based more on ideology than solid evidence.

According to Dr. Salim Yusuf, the outspoken but highly respected, Chair of the Heart-and-Stroke-Foundation at Hamilton’s McMaster University in Ontario,  Canada, current sodium consumption guidelines are based more on “zealotry than  science” and should be “halted until there’s better evidence”.

Yusuf, one of Canada’s foremost heart researchers, argues that “there is only modest evidence that cutting back on salt radically will reduce high blood pressure, and little or none that it would actually prevent heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems”. “The zeal to recommend  extreme reductions in sodium that are difficult to achieve in the entire population,” Yusuf said, “is a case of ideology replacing good science”. Not surprisingly, Yusuf was slated for his views, although only a very small number of his peers (one) actually went public with the condemnation.

At SaltSense, we believe there are a growing number of leading researchers who believe efforts to curb cardiovascular disease would be better focused on  trying to further reduce smoking rates, fighting obesity and using cheap and safe drugs to control high blood  pressure. We encourage the  well-meaning experts who have promoted dramatic public-health measures based on scant evidence – the evangelists about sodium – to keep an open mind about sodium consumption.

Yusuf is certainly right about one thing; we need better evidence.

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