At least this time the New York Times ‘we really need to reduce dietary salt‘ piece is in the op-ed section. Advocates for salt reduction have just been stating their opinion all along, but it is good to have those sorts of contextual clues for us readers.
OK, let’s not spend much time with this.
Premise of the op-ed: New study in Britain. Dietary salt consumption was reduced for the general population (government and industry working together!). The rate of stroke death dropped dramatically. Based on this information, we should reduce dietary salt intake in the United States, where we clearly eat too much salt. Got it?
OK. According to the study, overall salt intake dropped about 15% over a 9 year period. While average blood pressure went down less than 3%, the rate of stroke death dropped a whopping 42%.
That is a shocking number. If you take it out of context.
It is shocking because there’s no way a 3% reduction in blood pressure should lead to a 42% drop in the rate of stroke death.
It is also out of context because the rate of stroke death is plummeting everywhere in the western world, especially in – you guessed it! – the United States. We continue to eat tons of salt, and our stroke death-rate continues to decline dramatically.
In fact, the current rate of stroke death in the United States is 40 (per 100,000). In the UK, after they reduced overall salt intake by 15%, their rate of stroke death is still twice as bad as ours (78 per 100,000).
The authors of the study and the op-ed writer mean for their findings to support the hypothesis that dietary salt intake is linked to bad health. When put in context, the evidence refutes (not supports) the salt-is-bad hypothesis.