Health Officials: Don't Pass The Salt
With calorie counts and the trans fat ban in effect, city health officials have launched a quiet campaign against how much salt we eat.
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When 64-year-old William Broadbent was diagnosed with hypertension, his doctor told him the amount of salt he was eating had to be one of the first things to go.
"It was a challenge at first. Now, it doesn't bother me. I can eat without salt if I feel like, and I won't feel different," said Broadbent.
When it comes to fighting heart disease, Broadbent could be a poster child for what city health officials are wishing all New Yorkers would do. But you can't necessarily control the individual choices people make.
New York's Health Commissioner, Dr. Thomas Frieden, is once again appealing directly to the restaurant industry and makers of processed and packaged foods, proposing they voluntarily cut the amount of salt they put in the foods we eat by as much as 50 percent over the next decade.
While massive amounts of salt may protect us on the roads in potentially fatal weather, the message is excess amounts in our diets is a killer.
"The more salt an individual or a population takes in, the higher the blood pressure. The higher the blood pressure, the higher the risk of heart attack and stroke," said Frieden.
It's a message that has long held the support of many other health officials and medical groups around the country, and doctors like Broadbent's.
"With treating hypertension, we can use medications but really, it's almost as important as our lifestyle modifications, and this is maintaining a good weight, exercise, and probably the most important, the key factor, would be sodium and salt restriction," said Dr. Merle Myerson, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital.
While some food companies have been working to reduce salt content for a long time, Frieden's plan is one that's still getting resistance from a lot of different angles.
Convincing restaurants and food companies to all get onboard to do the same thing at one time has been one problem. And some experts question whether there's enough research to put such a large emphasis on such a drastic cut in salt from our diets.
"It's not that we care most about what someone's blood pressure is, it's that we care about what blood pressure can do to you, that is the risk of heart attack or stroke. And the evidence that lowering your salt in your diet will reduce your risk of heart and stroke is much less clear and in fact quite confusing," said Dr. Paul Marantz, Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Frieden continues to push for the food industry to get on board with his plan by choice. If not, the only other way would be through regulation.