Imagine the tragedy if every day for years on end a crowded jetliner crashed. Then imagine the outrage when the public learned that those tragedies had been preventable, but that the airlines and government had done nothing. Fortunately, jetliners rarely crash. But excessive salt in our food is causing several hundred preventable deaths every day—100,000 deaths each and every year. And the food industry and government have done virtually nothing.
Writer Michael Jacobson would have to add a lot of qualifiers to the statement before it made it past the sniff test.
First off, salt is not killing several hundred people a day. Accurately interpreting the words Michael has chosen leads to only one conclusion, salt kills several hundred people a day. And hundreds of thousands of people who drink water die every day. A more accurate statement would be “medical conditions related to high-sodium diets are factors in several hundred deaths each day.”
Salt doesn’t kill. In fact, salt is a necessary part of our bodies ability to regulate its water levels. High levels of sodium in our bodies alerts us with the sensation of thirst. And without sodium, the water would not travel into the necessary cells. It works in much the same way a good sauce flavors meat, by passing liquids back and forth across the various membranes until the saline (salt) levels equalize on both sides.
The second problem with Michael Jacobson’s arguments are his assumption that government regulation is the best source of a solution to the problem of high-sodium diets.
First off, any such regulation is flatly contradictory to the stipulations of the Constitution of the United States of America. The amount of salt a person consumes is completely within their rights to self-determination.
Not to say there isn’t an issue with the overall health of our nation. However, such issues illustrate the inappropriateness of government involvement in health and other private decisions and responsibilities. If the government wants to require that food stamps and WIC and other welfare assistance programs only be used on low-sodium foods, that’s OK. That particular cat is already out of that particular bag. And if you live on the government dole you live at their behest.
I don’t live at the government’s behest. I live in spite of the government.
Secondly, there are those who still live a healthy and active lifestyle whose bodies use and process higher levels of sodium effectively.
According to an evolutionary understanding, due to the necessity of hard labor to survival, our bodies evolved to prefer high-fat, high-starch, high-salt foods because they stored much higher levels of energy necessary for the long days in the fields and on the hunt.
According to a creationary understanding, God designed our bodies to prefer the foods that conveyed most effectively the elements essential to our carrying out the stipulations of the curse.
Either way, we’re tuned to want this stuff even if we don’t need it. But some do, and that is the inherent failure of each and every government regulation. There is simply no way a blanket rule can be applied without it causing harm to some without a corresponding benefit.
Supporters of intervention are focusing on the overconsumption of salt. Point taken. However, the problem of overconsumption derives more from personal choice than from sodium intake under circumstances beyond one’s control, such as when large amounts of sodium were added to food products without information to consumers.
People are presented with all the data needed to make an informed decision. Warnings about excessive sodium abound. Product labels list the amount of sodium each serving contains. Restaurants are increasingly supplying nutritional guides. The responsibility lies with the consumer on how to act on this knowledge.
Most Americans do not seem to be choosing to restrict their own salt intake, and the FDA is looking to use this outcome to justify intervening in everyone’s food choices “for our own good.” But no amount of such intervention will ever force people to make good choices. What will regulators do if this idea doesn’t work? Resort to policing salt intake within people’s own homes? Where does dictating the actions of others “for their own good” end?
As Tate mentions, the argument that many people are unwise in their decisions regarding nutrition is valid. But when it comes to the government of the United States of America, there is this niggling detail. All arguments regarding the role and responsibility of the government must begin with the Constitution. And only if they pass that muster may they proceed to whether they are logical, practical, necessary, or wise. If there is truly compelling reasons, the Constitution may be amended, as it has in the past. But the failure of Constitutional amendments today serves to highlight the paucity of truly revolutionary ideas in government.
Tate ends thus:
Ultimately, the risk we take by trusting Americans to make their own decisions is significantly less than the sacrifice we make by continuing to excuse actions by a government that has repeatedly proven its total disregard for the limits imposed by the Constitution.