The salt reduction promoted by the government has serious consequences and might become life-threatening. In the following article, renowned German food chemist Udo Pollmer - also called the "anarchist of food culture" - will explain the backgrounds.
by Udo Pollmer / January 26th, 2019
Natural healers and alternative doctors like to justify their therapies, by telling, that they were already practiced by our ancestors. Toxic herbs, forgotten healing knowledge and pious spells are in no way inferior to the "appliance medicine." It’s about time to...
...speak appreciatively about a remedy which was held in high regards for thousands of years, and barely 100 years ago had been discredited by a famous Swiss doctor: the salt.
Where does this contempt come from? It is related to the world view of doctors, who always assumed, that diseases were caused by wrong behavior, say sins. A century ago, it was mainly "self-abuse", by which people sinned against God. Nowadays "food-sins" are leading us straight to ruin.
Switzerland was a bulwark of this thinking: in 1761 the physician Samuel-Auguste Tissot (Lausanne) had raised the issue of onanism, the consequences of which would be in no way less serious than those of syphilis. A century and a half later, his colleague Max Bircher-Benner (Zürich) turned his back on this world of ideas and turned his attention to the gut. He no longer imagined Satan's glue bars under the sheets, but sought the sin in the kitchen.
The «hunger» for salt
Salt simply exerts a strong attraction on people. Apparently an even stronger one than tobacco, the chain smoker Bircher-Benner found. Behind it there’s a "hidden power that demonically, diabolically holds captive." The "hunger for salt" doesn’t match with a physiological need, animals wouldn’t have any interest in salt and cannibals are said to despise the salted bodies of white people.
Important salt-lick stones
With biological knowledge, nay, with just a little common sense, he could have seen, that beyond this hunger there’s the same physical need that also lies behind thirst or the desire for breath. But instead, doctors made biology the work of the devil, thrown away the experiential knowledge gained: Every forester, every farmer knows, that his animals thrive better, are more vital, healthy and fertile if he offers them salt lickstones ad libitum. Anyone who fails to do so is guilty of animal cruelty.
In the wild, animals travel long distances to get salt. There are antelopes that go in search of caves, in which predatory cats lurk for them, for no reason other than to lick their salty elixir of life. Elephants toss and turn deep in mud holes for some salty soil. Elks migrate to the sea for salty algae. Mountain gorillas love rotting wood, because fungi grow on it, that are accumulating salt. Some chew this inedible stuff so long that their palates start bleeding. It provides them with 20 times more salt than their normal diet.
The real effect on blood pressure
And how is that with humans? Not different at all. But here the doctors' apostles, are frightened with the prospect of future horrors (just like in the past with onany), which make eternal damnation seem like a spa stay. Fortunately, thanks to the work of Professor Klaus Stumpe (Bonn) and his colleague Friedrich Luft (Berlin), we know what the effect on blood pressure is: if salt intake is reduced, it doesn’t change at all by two-thirds of the people. In the remaining third, half of them respond to the absence of salt by lowering their blood pressure, and in the other half it rises in spite of everything. And in Switzerland? Apparent no one there has yet taken an interest in such details.
Falling salt intake, falling life expectancy
This is moreover not really tragic, because life expectancy or mortality is decisive. And that is where the cards have long been on everyone's table, under which our advisors would prefer to drop them: with decreasing salt intake, strangely enough, life expectancy also decreases. With increased salt intake, mortality decreases. Every farmer and forester knows that.
What is the cause of this fabulous effect? To give you an example, we cite a London study with 3,000 healthy older men who were observed for 11 years. The result: the less sodium in the blood, the more heart attacks and strokes. That means, that even "normal" sodium levels were linked to increased risk, when they lay in the lower normal range (135 mmol/L). In fact, almost twice as many people died in that range as at the average value (140 mmol/l).
Avoiding salt with fatal consequences
A prospective study from Korea confirmed this almost simultaneously: here, too, sodium levels in the lower norm range were found to be a "significant risk factor for mortality among the elderly." In Taiwan, the results were very much the same: patients who showed low sodium levels on admission to the hospital had poorer prognosis etc.
Low-salt-diet becomes dangerous when it is combined with the advice to drink a lot. This often leads to hyponatremia (water intoxication). In children, it results again and again in fatalities. The kidneys need salt to excrete water. A lack of salt or a forced supply of fluid keeps water in the body. If you are "stingy" with salt, lung or brain edema occurs - often resulting in death. On the other hand, an "excess" of salt, has only one effect: you get thirsty, drink something and the sodium in the blood always stays in the green range.
It's like biting into an old jumper
Those who are convinced they need to take away the salt from the bakery, just make sure that citizens will eat less bread. It no longer meets the physiological needs of the body and sooner or later it tastes like a bite into an old jumper. People like to point out that in the south of Europe there is hardly any salt in white bread. Yet it is no coincidence that much less bread is eaten there, therefore much more salty side dishes such as olives, anchovies or hard cheese are served.
The side effects of abstaining from salt
So why is abstaining from salt promoted everywhere to this day? Perhaps the side effects bring some relief: with a low-salt diet, LDL cholesterol rises significantly. Insulin resistance increases, an indication of diabetes. And the uric acid levels, considered to be marker of gout, also rise. Shame on anyone who thinks evil of it or suspects money makes the world go round. Even doctors are just people, aren't they?
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English editor: Josef Hueber, Eichstätt
Originally published “=> Salz sparen kann lebensbedrohend sein” in panissimo October 25th, 2019; No. 21: 4-5
Panissimo is the Journal of the Association of the Swiss Baker & Confectioners
Text also available in French => Du pain sans sel... Honni soit qui mal y pense !
and Italian => Risparmiare sul sale può essere un danno vitale