Thursday, December 08, 2016

The war on salt

More ill-informed regulation.  It completely ignores academic research results which show that only LOW salt levels are harmful.  See e.g. here and here.  There is even a natural experiment that shows big doses of salt to be harmless:  Japan.  They have huge salt intakes but are also known for longevity

Almost everyone believes that lowering salt in the diet can lower a person’s blood pressure, but despite that belief and decades of warnings from government agencies, health organizations, and our doctors, Americans still eat about 1,000 mg of sodium a day more than the recommended limit of 2,300 mg. So this summer the U.S. Food and Drug Administration responded by unveiling “guidance” for how the food industry could lower sodium in their products over the next decade. As well-intentioned as the plan might be, it has many problems.

First, the mission of the FDA is supposed to be protecting consumers from dangers in the food supply - not protecting us from our own choices.

Second, while the FDA call them “voluntary guidelines,” the reality is that manufacturers will be under immense pressure to comply. After all, the agency that is the gatekeeper, and possibly the single biggest impediment, between their products and the market.

Most importantly, the FDA plan—even if it successfully reduced sodium in the food supply—is unlikely to result in a healthier population. In the meantime, the focus on salt overshadows better approaches to lowering blood pressure and improving health.

Evidence shows that most human beings consume salt within a relatively narrow range and that our sodium intake has remained more or less stable for at least the last fifty years. That’s pretty amazing considering how much more processed (and heavily salted) foods we consume today compared with previous generations. When you consider our proven inability to reduce our own sodium intake, despite constant warnings, and the worldwide consistency in sodium intake, despite cultural differences, that’s a strong indicator that we don’t merely decide to eat more or less salt. Rather, we are unconsciously and physiologically driven to eat a certain amount of sodium. This means that even if the FDA succeeds in lowering salt in the food supply, people will probably just add it back into their food or add in other salty foods to their diet.

But, let’s say the FDA plan works and we all end up eating less salt. It’s unclear that this would result in better health for the majority of people. While most of us accept the idea that lowering salt in the diet will lower blood pressure, the actual scientific research shows that only a small percentage of the population—an estimated 17 percent—are “salt sensitive” or will see blood pressure rise with increased dietary sodium. For everyone else, even significant sodium reduction will have no measurable effect on blood pressure.

You might be thinking: well, it can’t hurt to cut out some salt…right? The troubling answer is: that’s not clear, either. Emerging evidence suggests that populations with diets that have lower-than-average sodium are at a higher risk for worse health outcomes (as are those with higher-than-average sodium levels). Why might groups with lower sodium in their diet be more likely to die? Unknown. But we must demand that regulators proceed with serious caution before making blanket recommendations regarding salt or trying to push the entire population toward behavioral changes that have unknown risks.

Perhaps worst of all, the FDA’s sodium reduction plan, with all its accompanying hype, reinforces the idea that salt is the be-all, end-all of hypertension prevention. While salt restriction can certainly be an effective way for some people to lower their blood pressure, for most people it will have no effect. On the other hand, there is strong evidence that losing weight or increasing potassium in the diet are just as effective at lowering blood pressure as moderate salt restriction. In addition to being effective, these approaches to hypertension risk reduction might be easier for people to adhere to, especially for those who find salt restriction difficult.

Unfortunately, while most people know that eating more fruits and vegetables would be good, few realize that doing so might lower their risk of hypertension, heart attack, and strokes. This ignorance is, in part, due to the government’s continued myopic focus on salt. Rather than perpetuating public health policy that has failed for nearly forty years, we urged the FDA to focus instead on protecting the food supply from real threats and to allow the appropriate health agencies and physicians to advise the people on nutrition that makes our lives longer and healthier.



The Left's Gambles with all our lives

Thomas Sowell

Sometimes life forces us to make decisions, even when we don’t have enough information to know how the decision will turn out. The risks may be even greater when people make decisions for other people. Yet there are some who are not only willing, but eager, to take decisions away from those who are directly affected.

Something as personal as what doctor we want to go to has been taken out of our hands by ObamaCare. What job offer, at what pay rate, someone wants to accept has been taken out of their hands by minimum wage laws.

Sick people who are dying are prevented from trying a medication that has not yet completed all the long years of tests required by federal regulations — even if the medication has been used for years in other countries without ill effects.

One by one, innumerable decisions have been taken out of the hands of those directly affected. This is not just something that has happened. It is a central part of the agenda of the political left, even though they describe what they are doing in terms of the bad things they claim to be preventing and the good things they claim to be creating.

Minimum wage laws are described as preventing workers from being “exploited” by employers who pay less than what third parties want them to pay. But would people accept wages that third parties don’t like if there were better alternatives available?

This is an issue that is very personal to me. When I left home at the age of 17, going out into the world as a black high school dropout with very little experience and no skills, the minimum wage law had been rendered meaningless by ten years of inflation since the law was passed. In other words, there was no minimum wage law in effect, for all practical purposes.

It was far easier for me to find jobs then than it is for teenage black high school dropouts today. After the minimum wage was raised to keep up with inflation, for decades the unemployment rate for black male 17-year-olds never fell below TRIPLE what it was for me — and in some years their unemployment rate was as much as five times what it was when I was a teenager.

Yet many people on the left were able to feel good about themselves for having prevented “exploitation” — that is, wage rates less than what third parties would like to see. No employer in his right mind was going to pay me what third parties wanted paid, when I had nothing to contribute, except in the simplest jobs.

As for me, my options would have been welfare or crime, and welfare was a lot harder to get in those days. As it was, the ineffectiveness of the minimum wage law at that time allowed me time to acquire job skills that would enable me to move on to successively better jobs — and eventually to complete my education. Most people who have minimum wage jobs do not stay at those jobs for life. The turnover rate among people who are flipping hamburgers was found by one study to be so high that those who have such jobs on New Year’s Day are very unlikely to still be there at Christmas.

In short, the left has been gambling with other people’s livelihoods — and the left pays no price when that gamble fails.

It is the same story when the left prevents dying people from getting medications that have been used for years in other countries, without dire effects, but have not yet gotten through the long maze of federal “safety” regulations in the U.S.

People have died from such “safety.” Police are dying from restrictions on them that keep criminals safe.

San Francisco is currently trying to impose more restrictions on the police, restrictions that will prevent them from shooting at a moving car, except under special conditions that they will have to think about when they have a split second to make a decision that can cost them their own lives. But the left will pay no price.

One of the most zealous crusades of the left has been to prevent law-abiding citizens from having guns, even though gun control laws have little or no effect on criminals who violate laws in general. You can read through reams of rhetoric from gun control advocates without encountering a single hard fact showing gun control laws reducing crime in general or murder in particular.

Such hard evidence as exists points in the opposite direction.

But the gun control gamble with other people’s lives is undeterred. And the left still pays no price when they are wrong.



People are still voting with their feet

The blue states of America are in a depression. I don’t mean the collective funk of liberal voters because they lost the election to Donald Trump.

I’m talking about an economic malaise in the blue states that went for Hillary Clinton. Here is an amazing statistic courtesy of the just-released 2016 edition of “Rich States, Poor States,” which I co-authored with Reagan economist Arthur Laffer and economist Jonathan Williams: Of the 10 blue states that Democrats won by the largest percentage margins — California, Massachusetts, Vermont, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, Illinois, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Connecticut — every single one of them lost domestic migration (excluding immigration) between 2004 and 2014. Nearly 2.75 million more Americans left California and New York than entered these states.

They are the loser states. They are all progressive: high taxes rates; high welfare benefits; heavy regulation; environmental extremism; high minimum wages. Most outlaw energy drilling. The whole left-wing playbook is on display in the Clinton states. And people are leaving in droves. Day after day, they are being bled to death. So much for liberalism creating a worker’s paradise.

Now let’s look at the 10 states that had the largest percentage vote for Trump. Every one of them — Wyoming, West Virginia, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Dakota and Idaho — was a net population gainer.

This is part and parcel of one of the greatest internal migration waves in American history, as blue states, especially in the Northeast, are getting clobbered by their low-tax, smaller-government rivals in the South and the mountain regions.

By the way, pretty much the same pattern holds true for jobs. The job gains in the red states that Trump carried by the widest margins had about twice the job-creation rate as the bluest states carried by Clinton.

The latest “Rich States, Poor States” report, published by the American Legislative Exchange Council, shows a persistent trend of Americans moving from blue to red states. The best example is that from 2004-2014, the two most populous conservative states — Florida and Texas — gained almost 1 million new residents each. The two most populous liberal states — California and New York — saw an equal-sized exodus.

It’s easy to understand why people might want to leave gray and rusting New York. But California? California has, arguably, the most beautiful weather, mountains and beaches in the country, and yet people keep fleeing the state that is supposed to be a progressive utopia.

What doesn’t make California and New York paradise is the high cost of living — thanks to expensive environmental regulations, forced union policies and income tax rates that are the highest in the nation, at 13 percent or more. Florida and Texas are right-to-work states with no income tax. Is it really a shocker that people would choose zero income tax over 13 percent? New York politicians know that their record-high tax rates are killing growth, which is why the state is spending millions of dollars on TV ads across the country trying to convince people that New York has low taxes. Sure. And Chicago is crime-free.

Even when it comes to income inequality, blue states fare worse than red states. According to a 2016 report by the Economic Policy Institute, three of the states with the largest gaps between rich and poor are those progressive icons New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Sure, Boston, Manhattan and Silicon Valley are booming as the rich prosper. But outside these areas are deep pockets of poverty and wage stagnation.

The lesson to be learned from the experimentation of the states is that the “progressive” tax and spend agenda leads to much slower growth and benefits the rich and politically well-connected at the expense of everyone else.

Trump is now promising that on a national scale, he will cut taxes, deregulate and cut wasteful government spending. In the presidential debates, Clinton disparaged this agenda as “trumped up, trickle-down economics,” and she said it had never worked.

Yet prospering red states such as Florida, Tennessee, Texas and so many others keep stealing jobs and growth from blue-state America.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


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