Salt is on the minds lately of the Food and Drug Administration, the American Medical Association and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
But should salt -- the so-called "forgotten-killer" -- be the prime focus of governmental and medical attention and potential regulation rather than even-more-forgotten-and deadly sugar?
Yes, salt can lead to fatalities, but the other white powder, sugar, and its relatives (other refined sweeteners) can kill way more people than salt.
Let me bring you up to date on salt's heated debate.
The FDA is considering limiting salt content in processed and restaurant foods, because the white substance is harmful and reportedly prematurely kills 150,000 people each year, as you can learn about in the Los Angeles Times.
More specifically, the "CSPI, backed by several health groups, wants the FDA to beef up labeling, require manufacturers to cut salt in packaged foods, and revoke salt’s `generally recognized as safe' [GRAS] status, subjecting it to stricter regulations as a food additive," as MSNBC reported.
The FDA, AMA and CSPI are ganging up on salt, because too much sodium has been linked in scientific studies to high blood pressure, which, of course, is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
The AMA's Stephen Havas, M.D., M.P.H., M.S. (vice president for the organization's Science, Quality, and Public Health division) even publicly worried that "most Americans consume two to three times the amount of sodium that is healthy, with an estimated 75 to 80 percent of the daily intake of sodium coming from processed and restaurant foods."
Dr. Havas even relied on a vivid analogy to describe salt's health hazards:
"The deaths attributed to excess salt consumption represent a huge toll – the equivalent of a jumbo jet with more than 400 passengers crashing every day of the year, year after year."
“I am sure no one would tolerate so many deaths from airline crashes, so why tolerate it from food?” Dr. Havas added.
While I applaud calling for a crackdown on salt in processed foods and restaurant meals, why zero in only on the "forgotten killer" salt when sugar poses much greater danger?
Way more than 150,000 are dying each year due to their excess sugar consumption, as my book SUGAR SHOCK! reveals.
We're not just talking about one jumbo jet with 400 passengers crashing. Instead, the numbers are much more astronomical.
Sugar's dangers amount to a sky filled with thousands of jumbo jets crashing! In fact, it's tough to fathom just how many jets.
Just look at some of the millions of people, whose sugar overloading and subsequent sugar shock may hurtle them towards disease and premature death.
- 191 million overweight or obese adult Americans (or about 65 percent of all Americans). These people, especially the 31 percent, who are obese, are prone to devastating consequences and a host of deadly diseases.
- Nearly 21 million (20.8 million people) with diabetes, in particular the 90 to 95 percent of people with type 2 diabetes, which is largely preventable by diet (kicking sugar and refined carbs), exercise and other lifestyle changes. It's imperative for these millions of people properly manage their blood sugar, which can swing wildly by over-consuming sweets and refined carbs. Some complications of diabetes include increased risk of fatal heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. (Not taking care of the disease also could lead to nerve damage (neuropathy), blindness (retinopathy), erectile dysfunction, depression and amputation.)
- 54 million people with pre-diabetes, who are headed towards diabetes and possibly early death if they don't make lifestyle improvements such as cutting back on sugar intake. (Some estimates are that between even more people -- up to 95 million Americans -- have pre-diabetic conditions such as metabolic syndrome, also known as Syndrome X and insulin resistance syndrome.)
And those above figures don't include the more than 40 million American adults with anxiety and 12 million with depressive disorders, as well as roughly 142 million Americans with symptoms of hypoglycemia. (I'm not adding these groups, because their sugar habit tends to diminish their quality of life, leading to less fatal symptoms. However, some of these people have been known to commit suicide because they're feeling so miserable, helpless and hopeless.)
Clearly, millions of lives are cut short just by eating over-eating sugar, which the majority of Americans do.
So, with salt taking the limelight, I just feel compelled to point out that sugar could be much more deadly for more people.
Even so, it is helpful to be told how much salt to consume. For instance, the American Heart Association recommends limiting daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams a day, or one teaspoon, but most of us consume about 3,300 milligrams instead. (The L.A. Times says the dreaded figure is 4,000 milligrams.)
Now, look at the outrageously high figures for sugar consumption.
- The average American gets about 25 percent of their calories from sweets and desserts, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages, as one study found.
- The typical U.S. adult consumes between 3/4 of a cup of sugar to nearly 1 cup of sugar a day. That's a far cry from the 2.2 teaspoons each person consumed in 1801, according to historians.
Indeed, millions of Americans -- roughly between 74 million to 147 million Americans -- are at risk of getting devastating, potentially deadly diseases because of over-consuming sugar. That's as opposed to a mere 150,000 people, whose lives are cut short by salt.
- Mounds of research shows that too much sugar and the subsequent blood sugar roller coaster effect and chronically elevated insulin levels could lead to such chronic big killers as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity.
- Scientific studies reveal that over-consuming sweets and refined carbs could lead to a host of female problems, including polycystic ovary syndrome, infertility, sexual dysfunction and birth defects.
- Sugar overloading could shrink, wither and atrophy your brain. Just see what Dr. Larry McCleary said about this.
- Too many sweets can sour your moods, studies find.
- If you over-consume sugar, you're also at risk of experiencing depression, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations and more.
- Many experts agree that too much sugar makes you age prematurely. See Dr. Nicholas Perricone's
foreword to SUGAR SHOCK! and Chapter 2 from renowned cardiologist Dr.
Stephen Sinatra (contributing author for SUGAR
SHOCK!), in which both of them explain this phenomenon.
- "Oprah" regular Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Christiane Northrup, Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Fred Pescatore, Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa, Dr. Ronald F. Feinberg, Dr. Donald I. Abrams, Dr. Jill Baron, and Dr. Keith DeOrio all believe that too much sugar, which the average American consumes, threatens their health and well being. (All of these M.D.s endorsed SUGAR SHOCK!)
- Renowned nutritionists such as Jonny Bowden, JJ Virgin, Liz Lipski, Jill Vollmuth and Shari Lieberman and others believe that people should cut out or drastically cut back on sugar consumption.
- Research indicates that too much sugar may lead to Alzheimer's disease.
(More new research just came out to support this theory.)
- Scientific studies have now been showing that you can become dependent on sweets. (In lay language, that means you can become addicted to the stuff, which can be found in abundance in processed foods.)
These are just a few of many recent findings documenting sugar's dangers.
Fortunately, I was able to reach a couple of experts to weigh in on the salt versus sugar debate.
"Sugar is definitely more dangerous than salt," Dr. Sinatra wrote to me today. "In my opinion, sugar is an enormous foe as salt is much more frequently a friend."
While acknowledging "the enormous controversy regarding the use of excess salt and high blood pressure," Dr. Sinatra maintains that "we need salt because it helps the electronic charge in the body that assists in the vibration of our cells.
"Yes it’s true that there is far too much processed salt in soups, crackers, pickles and anything found in a box or a can. But, remember," he added, "salt also contains iodine, which is absolutely vital for the health of the thyroid gland.
"As a cardiologist, I always restrict sugar from my patients' diets and used to restrict salt, but in this day and age, with thyroid disease being rampant, I only tend to restrict salt intake in congestive heart-failure situations."
Dr. Pescatore arrived at a similar conclusion. "Sugar is far worse than salt, and in typical fashion they go after who they can, despite the clinical evidence to the contrary," he also pointed out via e-mail.So, folks, while it's helpful to focus on salt's dangers, let's pay more attention to another, more dangerous white powder -- sugar. (And we're also talking about sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup, crystalline fructose, brown sugar, dextrose, raw sugar, cane juice, etc.)
Bear in mind that I'm singling sugar's perils for good reason. Lots of research shows that if you cut back on sugar and refined carbs, you could get more energy, you could improve your memory, you could resolve fertility and sexual dysfunction issues, you could manage (or prevent) your type 2 diabetes or hypoglycemia, you could lose and maintain your weight, and so much more.
In short, you could live a longer and sweeter life just by curtailing those culprit carbs.