Salt has joined fat, cholesterol, bread, wine and I don't know how many other things we can eat that are either good for us or bad for us, depending on which day's research we read. (On the really, really good days, when researchers are being honest, which means those days are rare, we might read that the evidences is still coming in and nobody knows for sure exactly what we should be eating and avoiding. Maybe Michelle Obama's recommended school cafeteria offerings are exactly what kids need, or maybe the recommendations are horribly misguided. The kids seem to be smarter about food than the rest of us: I hate that crap, and I'm not eating it!
Anyway, now we learn from The New York Times that that everything we think we know about salt may be wrong!
New studies of Russian cosmonauts, held in isolation to simulate space travel, show that eating more salt made them less thirsty but somehow hungrier. Subsequent experiments found that mice burned more calories when they got more salt, eating 25 percent more just to maintain their weight.
The research, published recently in two dense papers in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, contradicts much of the conventional wisdom about how the body handles salt and suggests that high levels may play a role in weight loss.
Yes, eating more salt could actually help you lose weight!
But, wait, says Dr. David L. Katz at the Huffington Post, everything we know about salt may NOT be wrong:
The Times column, noting that high salt intake under conditions of fixed water intake may induce the body to break down muscle and fat, suggests a possible advantage of high salt intake for weight loss. But the appended reflection is precautionary: salt intake appears to stimulate hunger. In other words, salt intake may help with weight loss only if you eat a lot of salt, and despite being very hungry, don't eat more food. Welcome to the “Salt Diet,” and the kind of deprivation that causes every other diet to fail. Interesting mechanistically? Yes. A reason to abandon all we thought we knew? Surely not.
This particular invitation to nutritional nihilism, by a journalist seemingly devoted to that very cause, is especially concerning and unfortunate. After many years of clarity about public health goals related to sodium- namely, the benefits of consuming less- confusion has recently been propagated by the legitimate debate among scientists over optimal levels. That debate has been misrepresented to imply that efforts to reduce intake by those consuming what we might call modern, industrial diets is premature. But intake levels in the U.S. and much of the modern world are well above the range being debated. Sodium excess is the current, clear, and all but omnipresent danger.
We all eat too much salt, if I may summarize, and we need to cut back, so don't let anybody tell you otherwise.
If that's not enough to get you going in circles, try this article, "18 foods with a bad rap that are actually good for you." The list includes eggs, pasta, and coffee (Aha! I knew my lifelong caffeine addiction couldn't be all that bad).
Or how about this one, "50 seemingly healthy foods that are bad for you." (I just knew there'd be more bad-for-me-foods than good-for-me foods). Seems a lot of these "good" things, like granola, artichoke-spinach dip, fish sandwich, turkey sandwich, microwave popcorn and light salad dressing are just loaded with hidden sugar, fat, calories and, oh, my, yes, lots and lots of SALT.
Oh, wait, this just in: How much caffeine it takes to kill an average person. Apparently, thank God, it would take 50 to 100 cups of coffee to actually have a chance of knocking me off. But if I drink more than four cups a day, I'll be subject to lots of possibly ill side effects. Oops, about 40 years too late for that warning.
And alcohol, I've just been informed by The Telegraph "does not alter personality." So say scientists as they "debunk the myth of 'happy drunk.' "
After drinking, participants reported lower levels of conscientiousness, openness to experience, and agreeableness, and they reported higher levels of extraversion and emotional stability.
However the observers only noticed chances in extraversion.
So if you've been blaming your bad behavior on drinking — "It wasn't me, it was the alcohol" — give it up. You were a jerk before you started drinking.
To put this in perspective, consider a recent story reporting that "food insecurity" has reached 14. 4 percent in Indiana. That's a euphemism, in case you were wondering, for "people likely to go to bed hungry."
The report also says this year, food-insecure individuals had about $15.40 less than they needed to eat 3 meals a day, 7 days a week.
So if you've got enough food to eat every day, don't sweat the salt so much.
I have a friendly acquaintance who works across the hall at the Evil Empire (Journal Gazette) who is always worried about the money that his 401 (k) has put into the stock market for him. He obsessively follows the ups and downs of the Dow Jones, several times a day. When it goes up a tad, he is ecstatic. When it goes down a tick, he is devastated. I keep telling him he should think of the long haul instead of driving himself crazy over the daily ups and downs. He's headed for a nervous breakdown. But going nuts several times a day is apparently his hobby, something he actually considers fun, so I don't see him changing.
Too many people are that way about food. I think obsessing over every new "discovery" about the benefits or ill effects of this or that food, and constantly adjusting diets because of it, does far more damage that any amount of unhealthy food consumed. It would be far better to just eat what you like, but in moderation, and splurge only occasionally on something truly wicked. You're in this for the long haul, and unless you give in totally to wretched excess, your body will take care of you.