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Friday, 25 November 2011

IS A SODIUM REDUCTION CAMPAIGN WORTH ONE'S SALT?

Instead of constantly meddling in our lives to reduce healthcare costs, how about our elected officials stopped pushing on the panic button every time some epidemiologist, health lobbyist, pharma lobbyist, politician investing in future votes, or anti-this and anti-that comes up with a ‘’brilliant’’ solution for the betterment of the collective ‘’we’’, often to justify their raison d’être?   Contrary to cattle feeding on the same diet and in controlled living environments, we all have different genetic heritage, lifestyles and habits that can and do influence our health and a universal remedy will not fix the problem.    It can even make it worse.  What is good for a person with a tendency to hypertension is not necessarily good for someone with hypotension and what is beneficial to a healthy person can be fatal to an unhealthy one.  Isn’t this the reason we each (hopefully) have a doctor looking after our individual needs?  If we were all the same, wouldn’t the on-line advice of a medical site published by the government substantially reduce healthcare costs?   It doesn’t work that way, otherwise our public healthcare problems would have already been fixed.

The incessant public health campaigns and the ‘’one fits all’’ preventive measures confuse and cause unnecessary fear to the individual who runs to the E.R. and to his doctor to be reassured that his pain, discomfort or temporary loss of appetite doesn’t hide something more insidious.  This and the easily prescribed medication that usually follows such visits, is precisely what increases healthcare costs.  The body is not perfect nor should we expect it to be in an always optimal condition.  We are neither gods nor semi-gods and there are no magic pills that will make it so no matter how much we spend in medicating our less than perfect bodies.   What will temporarily soothe our aching body might cause us even less desirable permanent side effects and will definitely further burden the healthcare system in the short and long term. 

One of the latest health scares is sodium intake (salt).  There is now a global campaign against it and as we have learnt to expect Canada is following in the steps of other countries.  An article in the Globe & Mail (linked at bottom of this page) informs us that the provinces (Quebec excluded) are looking for a health funding deal with Ottawa to campaign for the reduction of sodium consumption in an effort to reduce visits to the hospital and the doctor.  

But the scientific literature does not warrant such universal measures in reducing salt consumption.  Albeit the studies we reviewed generally seem to agree that salt consumption influences the health of the elderly, the obese and people with hypertension and heart disease, it does not suggest that it is harmful to otherwise healthy individuals.  As a matter of fact one recent Canadian study demonstrates that reducing it to levels governments suggest can be hazardous to one’s health as we can read in this analysis of the study from the American Council on Science and Health.  

Another unintended consequence of legislation against excess sodium in processed foods or even voluntary compliance from the food industry is that when sodium is lowered or completely removed from foods, it is replaced with potassium chloride.  This substance and salt substitutes derived from it can be  dangerous to some people and even fatal to the uninformed yet they are available on supermarket shelves for all to buy. 

Considering that some 6 – 7% of Canadians still can’t find a family doctor, surely our taxes would be much better spent in filling that shortage rather than mimicking international preventive campaigns that, depending on the individual, can cause more harm than good.  

Provinces seek Ottawa’s help to lower Canadians’ sodium intake

2 comments:

Big Dan said...

Beautifully said!

health ecology said...
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