THE TRACK RECORD FOR THE MEDICAL EXPERTS HAS BEEN ABYSMAL…THE FIRST FOOD PYRAMIDS WERE OVER-WEIGHTED TOWARDS CARBOHYDRATES AND SUGARS…FAT WAS THE GREAT EVIL…WE ARE PAYING FOR IT NOW…NOW THE EXPERTS ARE GUN SHY WITH RESPECT TOWARDS SALT IN THE DIET….HERE WE GO AGAIN….
The harder the experts try to save Americans, the fatter we get. We followed their admirable advice to quit smoking, and by some estimates we gained 15 pounds apiece afterward. The extra weight was certainly a worthwhile trade-off for longer life and better health, but with success came a new challenge.
Suppose, as some experts advise, that the new national dietary guidelines due this spring will lower the recommended level of salt. Suppose further that public health officials in New York and Washington succeed in forcing food companies to use less salt. What would be the effect?
A) More than 44,000 deaths would be prevented annually (as estimated recently in The New England Journal of Medicine).
B) About 150,000 deaths per year would be prevented annually (as estimated by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene).
C) Hundreds of millions of people would be subjected to an experiment with unpredictable and possibly adverse effects (as argued recently in The Journal of the American Medical Association).
D) Not much one way or the other.
E) Americans would get even fatter than they are today.
Don’t worry, there’s no wrong answer, at least not yet. That’s the beauty of the salt debate: there’s so little reliable evidence that you can imagine just about any outcome. For all the talk about the growing menace of sodium in packaged foods, experts aren’t even sure that Americans today are eating more salt than they used to.
Officials responded by advising Americans to shun fat, which became the official villain of the national dietary guidelines during the 1980s and 1990s. The anti-fat campaign definitely made an impact on the marketing of food, but as we gobbled up all the new low-fat products, we kept getting fatter. Eventually, in 2000, the experts revised the dietary guidelines and conceded that their anti-fat advice may have contributed to diabetes and obesity by unintentionally encouraging Americans to eat more calories.