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Home » Health

No, the government can’t limit your salt. But you should

Submitted by on Tuesday, 27 April 2010 No Comment
Calm down, folks. Uncle Sam isn't going to bang in your door and confiscate your salt shaker. Though it's really not a bad idea.

According to a very poorly phrased Rasmussen poll, 55 percent of the Americans who responded don't think the government should set limits on how much salt Americans can eat. As if the government could do that anyway, short of putting spy cams in every home or having airport-like searches at every grocery store.  But then, the Rasmussen poll has been known to skew right, and fear of the government "nanny state" is a popular theme with those on the far right of right so its easy to see why paranoia overtook critical thinking.

Not that rationing is a bad idea on its face - the right to bear salt isn't in the Second Amendment, is it? Though 71 percent of those in the Rasmussen poll say they already closely monitor to what they eat, an American's average daily salt consumption has been in excess of 3,400 milligrams for decades, with 75 percent of it coming from processed foods. The Food and Drug Administration's recommended level is 2,400. Are people closely monitoring but just not caring?

The difference in sodium consumption makes a big difference in terms of dollars and health. A study released last month estimated that cutting salt intake 9.5 percent would mean 513,885 fewer strokes and 480,358 fewer heart attack over the lifetimes of adults ages 40 to 85 today. It would save $32.1 billion in health care costs.

The same study suggests that manufacturers work with the government to reduce sodium levels voluntarily, and it points to a highly successful effort in England that accomplished that 9.5 percent reduction through that method alone. New York City already is trying for voluntary reductions stateside, and some manufacturers are on board.

The study also raises the specter of a tax on high-sodium foods, which probably would give the Rasmussen respondents the heebie jeebies. Stockpile the Mortons. They're coming to take it away!

That's not likely, since salt Americans add to their own food accounts for only about 11 percent of consumption. An additional 9 percent occurs naturally in foods. The rest is through processing.

Yes, the government can regulate processing and has done so in the past. But that's a far cry from Big Brother slapping on the cuffs if you utter the words, "pass the salt."

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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