Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Saying no to salt?

I can't help feeling that Jesus of Nazareth would get pretty short shrift if he turned up these days in Britain; not only would he have to deal with a lot of immigration paperwork but a certain sector of the population would have some very strong objections.

"Mr ben Joseph, I understand you have been turning water into wine without an appropriate licence. Now, quite apart from the legal implications, we are very concerned about the message this sends. Your actions could be seen to promote the unrestricted consumption of alcohol and run contrary to all our recent national anti-drinking campaigns.

We also hear that you have described your followers as 'the salt of the earth'; this attempt to portray a harmful substance in a positive light is something we regard very seriously indeed..."

Ah yes, salt. While not all the research agrees, the battle lines have been firmly drawn. As NHS Choices - Nanny's preferred organ of communication - explains:

You don't have to add salt to food to be eating too much: 75% of the salt we eat is already in everyday foods such as bread, breakfast cereal and ready meals.

There's a handy article explaining exactly how to cut down on salt particularly if you are elderly (it stops just short of a section on how to extract the nourishment from eggs) and finishes with the coup de grace - a video entitled 'Say No to Salt'.

Now, funnily enough, two people of my acquaintance did just that this year. Both conscientious souls in their eighties, they followed the NHS instructions to the letter and emptied their salt-cellars and banned it from their kitchens forthwith.

And both of them ended up recently needing medical treatment for the symptoms of salt deficiency - not at once, you understand, but after several weeks of increasing illness, debility, dizziness and mental confusion.

You see, the NHS merrily assumes that everyone eats the 'bread, breakfast cereals and ready meals' that supposedly supply 75% of the necessary daily intake. Like so many other NHS policies, it's one-size-fits-all, and I suspect the usual diet of NHS administrators bears little or no resemblance to the home-cooking and baking habits of the previous generation.

And what is truly frightening is that, until both of these people collapsed and the tests were done, all their symptoms were put down to the normal aging process with no further investigation.

This painting-by-numbers approach to healthcare risks damaging those who do not fit the preselected profiles. What is needed is a large helping of common sense in the NHS - but I suspect that would be nothing short of a miracle.


  1. The salt issue is too complex and uncertain for blanket advice, but they won't let go will they?

  2. When camping in hot spots it was my practice to line up the family and ensure the taking of salt tables together with enough water. It seemed to work. But I had had the need for basic salt drummed into to me in the military. It is a question of balance and commonsense. Take enough good quality salt but avoid indirect poor quality stuff used for preserving packaged foods etc.

  3. AKH - such is the hubris of modern medicine; the word iatrogenic exists for a reason.

    Demetrius, since the military requires large numbers of people in optimum condition there's a lot of sense in following their best practice.

    I'm told - by those who frequent posher eateries than I - that while hoi polloi gorge themselves on common-or-garden table salt, the latest thing is salt menus enabling the diner to choose between Maldon, Anglesey, Brittany or Camargue sea salt.


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