Written by Donald A. Gazzaniga*
Updated July, 2015
I live in that no-salt world. I don't live there because I want to or just to get salt out of my life. I live there because if I ingest too much sodium, I will depart Terra Firma at a time I refer to as a "premature departure." My bread is made at home and is unsalted. My entrees, snacks, light meals and breakfasts are so low in sodium that I often don't consume more than 300 to 450 mg a day. That's very low. That has not killed me, but instead reversed a very bad condition I had. But I don't demand you eat that way. And neither should Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest continue with radical scare articles about "killer salt." And neither should Andrew Stuttaford mock this effort since so many millions of people are in the same boat and working very hard to survive longer (National Review, Powder Keg, March 24, 2005).
Too much sodium for me is over 500 mg a day, a lifestyle I've lived since 1997. So that you don't think me crazy, I quite literally returned from the "terminal heart disease" life to a full working life and mostly because I was able to develop a solid program for no-salt patients, contrary to CSPI and Suttaford's comments and positions on the matter.
I am among millions who suffer one of the many maladies that demand we cut our sodium levels. Since salt has a lot of sodium in it, we must cut salt out altogether and find ways to lower the sodium in what we eat. It can be accomplished without a new radical law, or without judicial interference as advocated by the CSPI.
How can we do this? Education for our own sakes and, please, please try to get the media to get it right.
I truly believe the marketplace can bring about the necessary changes. Our demanding this service from food producers and processors will bring it about steadily, albeit slowly. Already in many restaurants around the U.S. all you have to do is ask for a no-salt meal and they will understand what you need and produce it for you -- free of salt and very low with sodium. You just have to learn how to ask for it and learn how to make it clear.
After eight years of operating Megaheart.com we have seen a plethora of new products with salt not included in them and sodium radically lowered. These include breakfast cereals, ketchup, mustard, baking powder, baking soda, even potato chips and tomato paste, sauces, cheeses, pickles, bread and other commercial products. Unfortunately, these are not always available nationwide in local stores. But there is a company on the net (healthyheartmarket.com) that is supplying these many items to those who live in rural areas or even in large cities where local markets don't yet carry them.
We have provided new recipes free to thousands of members at Megaheart.com. Pizzas with only 11.7 mg of sodium per slice compared to the 1200-plus served commercially. Cinnamon rolls, a giant selection of entrees, desserts, breakfast recipes, lunches, light meals, soups, and salads as well. A full day's course based on our three recipe books and web site recipes can be held to under 500 mg easily and even lower if necessary. All with what is available today.
But what about those who don't suffer from one of the maladies in question? The simple truth is that just like the 100-year old who smoked all his life, millions can eat salt until the block is dry and never feel the effects of it. To pass legislation, to get a judge to order manufacturer's to change their processing (much more expensive), to tax salt as suggested by Mr. Jacobson is simply too radical, too political and smacks of someone trying to take control of our lives.
If you can handle salt, no big deal. If you can't then take charge of your own life because the material, the foods, the knowledge is out there. For someone to tell those who can handle salt that they must pay more to eat like those who can't is not the way a good democracy works. Suttaford believes he is the guy in white and Jacobson is the guy in black. Unfortunately each is dressed in a zebra outfit. Partly right, partly wrong.
Let's take a look at the facts as registered through intensive research projects not sponsored by the salt institutes or manufacturers, but instead strictly by the scientific and medical communities and cardiologists who have experienced the results of restricted salt diets.
Sodium, too much of it, definitely causes hypertension in up to 50 million in the U.S. and can cause death in about 5 million unless they get heart transplants or change their eating habits. I was one of those and if I were to begin eating lots of sodium again I would be right back to where I nearly died. I was about to be listed to receive a transplant because my diagnosis was "terminal," but surprising to everyone at Stanford Heart Transplant Clinic, I started to recover. We held off the listing and after one year understood there wouldn't be any need for it. Together with Dr. Michael Fowler at Stanford my wife and I helped set a new course for full recovery, working against all mandates that it would be impossible. Well, it wasn't and the efforts at Megaheart.com and through the books published by Macmillan—St. Martin's Press and Arrowhead Classics Publishing, we have led the way and opened the door for hundreds of "similar" web sites and books to follow us, helping others, teaching about the negatives and the positives of salt and sodium.
But the course I took and then wrote about and now promote (at hardly a profit since that was not my motivation) works. And hundreds even thousands have written to tell us how they are now back at work even though they were told they would be terminal. How? By cutting salt out altogether and lowering their total sodium intake. This is where Stuttaford missed the mark.
We cannot have a single diet plan that will work for every one. But we do know that some are extremely sensitive to high levels of sodium and some aren't. What we must do is educate both the public through non-political routes, and the manufacturers with correct information and get the media to join us in this effort. When the manufacturers realize how big the market place is the Salt Wars will be over.
*Don wrote this article in response to Andrew Suttaford's article in National Review Online. Suttafort was reacting to articles and statements in the media by Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Jacobson declared salt a "killer" and so dangerous that it should be removed from foods. Suttaford declared that salt harmed no one. Back To Top