Wednesday, January 13, 2010

InSalting Food Fraud

Now we have been constantly harping on the fraudulent-and dangerous to our liberties-nature of this city's attempt to instruct is citizenry on what it should be eating. The efforts, ranging from the ban on transfat to the forced posting of calories on menu boards, dramatize a mentality that is both intrusive, as well as scientifically questionable. Daniel Compton picks up on this theme in regards to the recently announced anti-salt policy that DOH has inaugurated.

As Compton points out, there is no underlying scientific research that justifies this new effort to tell people what's good for them: "On Monday, city officials rolled out an initiative to curb the salt content in manufactured and packaged foods. But the idea behind it -- that salt intake has reached extreme levels in America -- is a myth, and this "solution" wouldn't work, anyway."

Compton lays out why this isn't a public health problem: "Nutritionists at the University of California/Davis just published the first and only study to address salt intake and public policy. They found that people are naturally inclined to regulate salt intake to physiologically determined levels by unconsciously selecting foods to meet their needs -- and even the most extreme interventions don't do much. "

So, just as with calorie posting-an idea that comes out of Michael Jacobson's Center for Science in the Public Interest (Jacobson has recommended making the distribution of Halloween candy illegal)-we find that there are no peer reviewed studies that even give the inclination that this is smart public policy: "The UC Davis study (published in the October issue of The Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology) looked at data from more than 19,000 individuals from 33 countries worldwide. It determined that daily sodium intake ranges only from 2,700 milligrams to 4,900 mg, with the worldwide average of 3,700 mg. It also determined that the average American consumes about 3,400 mg a day -- disproving the claim spread by advocates such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest that US salt consumption is out of control. In other words, Farley's trying to fight a problem that doesn't exist."

Yet somehow Dr. Tom wants to reduce the salt intake to levels that really don't make for good health at all: "Worse, his new guidelines say that daily sodium intake for most people shouldn't exceed 1,500 mg -- which is a ridiculous 45 percent below the bottom of the normal consumption range the UC Davis study identified, and a full 60 percent lower than the worldwide average. The researchers also cite decades of research describing the specific mechanism by which the central nervous system, acting together with several organ systems, controls our appetite for salt."

So not only is the current initiative dangerously intrusive, it just may be scientifically unsupportable. Who knew? But this doesn't deter the food police who believe that the folks are in desperate need of guidance. In fact, the UC California study indicates that the city's entire effort is a waste of time and money it doesn't have: "The researchers also cite decades of research describing the specific mechanism by which the central nervous system, acting together with several organ systems, controls our appetite for salt. One of the studies they cite involved hundreds of participants in what was to be a three-year sodium-intake intervention, with the goal of reducing daily intake to 1,850 mg. But after six months, researchers noted that participants were simply unable to cut sodium intake below about 2,750 mg a day -- close to the bottom of the range the UC Davis study identified."

To us, this only confirms what we have been saying all along-the city's Nanny policies are bogus and the Department of Health should simply butt out of the regulatory instruction business; at least until it has a scintilla of evidence that a designated policy night make some sense. How's that for an inconvenient truth?

We now have pseudo-scientific poseurs trying to make food policy-and can manufactured data (hide the decline) be far behind? "The New York guidelines are voluntary -- for now. But the city's ban on trans fats started that way, too. And the federal Food and Drug Administration has also been looking to get in on the action -- it may classify it as a "food additive," subject to regulation, sometime this year. But this campaign isn't about public health -- it's about grandstanding on a pseudo-issue ginned up by activists, when science clearly shows that there's neither a crisis nor a way for the government to actually alter our salt intake."

But, so what? The city doesn't have any other pressing issues that it needs to address-and we have plenty of excess funds in out treasury to spend diddling a pliant public. What we really need to do, is insist that Mike Bloomberg be monitored-perhaps Mike Jacobson can do the honors-on a daily basis to insure that his salt intake stays at the new low levels that DOH recommends. If he's unable to maintain this ridiculously low standard, than he should agree that the entire policy experiment will be guttered. Now that's a peer reviewed study that we'd be willing to live by.