Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

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Take it with a grain of salt, or maybe not


Oh great, the latest headlines on salt: People eat too much salt but surprising report questions if eating too little could be harmful. Not exactly, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report, based on a review of studies pertaining to salt/sodium consumption and health. The report indicated that there may not be much benefit to reducing sodium consumption below the current recommended maximum of 2, 300 mg/day. They also looked at a few studies that found sodium consumption much below this amount might actually be detrimental to health. However, these studies all had major flaws and most looked at patients with serious health issues rather than looking at sodium reduction in the general population as a preventative health measure. You can access the full report, or the report brief here.

Yes, the report states that there is no research available to support reducing sodium consumption to 1, 500 mg/day, or less. Yes, the report also suggests that there may be some risk in reducing sodium consumption to 1, 500 mg/day in certain subsets of the population. That doesn’t mean that there may not be benefit in reduced sodium intake for those outside of those population subsets. It just means that there’s currently no research to support recommendations of less than 1, 500 mg of sodium per day. More research could be conducted and it may be the case that there is benefit, or not, the point is that we don’t know.

What we do know is that there is a benefit from reducing sodium intake to no more than 2, 300 mg/day and that most Americans (Canadians may be slightly worse due to the salty formulations of our packaged and fast food) consume in excess of this: on average, 3, 400 mg/day. Even if there proves to be no benefit to consuming as little as 1, 500 mg of sodium a day we can still benefit from a drastic reduction in sodium intake. Don’t let the headlines fool you into thinking that you might be harmed by reducing your sodium intake.


Hopping about hops

Still getting caught up on my article reading from the holidays. I started reading the article in the National Post entitled: Why beer’s good for you: Compound in hops may help fend off cold-like symptoms. I anticipated a blog post about how ridiculous the study was. However, the article turned out to be a little bit different from what one might expect based on the headline.

The research was done by the “Sapporo Medical University”. For those of you who don’t know; Sapporo is a beer. Clearly this study was not conducted by unbiased researchers. However, the author points out that this research should be taken with a grain of salt. One of the Sapporo researchers is quoted as saying that such small quantities of the cold-fighting compound were present in beer that a person would have to drink 30 beers in order to obtain the virus-fighting benefits. Obviously drinking 30 beers for any reason, not just for cold protection, is unreasonable. Despite this, the potential benefits that could be obtained from this compound (humulone which is present in the hops in beer) are an interesting outcome of the research.

Where does my usual ranting come in, you may be wondering. Right about now. My issue is with the headline. This isn’t the first time that I’ve seen copywriters writing headlines that tout the exact opposite message of what’s actually contained in the article. Sure, you want to get readers but I don’t think that drawing people in with incorrect and misleading headlines is the way to do it. It does nothing for the credibility of your publication. Try writing a headline that actually corresponds with the information contained in the article.