We all need salt in our diets. It is the main constituent present in our body water and we have several mechanisms to keep our salt content within a narrow, healthy range. If there is too little salt present, these mechanisms decrease the salt content of urine, making it more dilute. If there is too much salt, the excess is excreted through the kidneys and our water intake is increased; we become thirsty. These mechanisms are not perfect; they deteriorate as we age.
We need salt in our food, but only so much.
Chronic excess salt intake overloads these mechanisms and leads to water retention and kidney damage. Blood pressure rises – high blood pressure is strongly linked to high salt intake – and this, with water retention, puts strin on the heart and coronary vessels leading to heart disease and heart failure. Exercise becomes difficult, further compounding the problems of high blood pressure and heart disease, and increasing the risk of stroke.
If this is not enough, a high salt intake is associated with an increased risk of stomach cancer and of osteoporosis – a significantly debilitating disease. Excess salt in the diet increases the risk of premature death. The excess does not have to be much; the margins are small.
Avoiding too much salt in the diet can only be good. Right?
Unfortunately, the western diet is overloaded with salt, most of which comes from processed food. Recognising this as a major component of a modern health epidemic, government agencies moved to reduce the salt content of processed foods by setting limits to the amount of salt present in food products. It was intended to be a gradual but progressive process, allowing the food companies time to accommodate the need for salt reduction.
When the Conservative government came to power in 2010, they scrapped this arrangement, reaching an self-regulation agreement with the food companies. They were to police the salt reduction targets themselves. The companies know that salt is addictive and helps to sell their produce. Guess what happened?
To me, this suggests that the Conservatives care more about the profits of their business colleagues than they do about the health of the people. There has been no suggestion that this attitude might change in the foreseeable future.
It concerns me that profits so obviously come before people, before welfare and well-being – apart from that of the rich.
I know which way I’ll be voting.