Live Heart Healthy. Live Well & Live Long

The Importance of Salt in Processed Food? Taste and Profit

by | Aug 6, 2012

Ten years ago, Graham MacGregor and Hugh E. de Wardener argued in a report titled “Commentary: Salt, blood pressure and health” that salt was being used by the food industry not because it was needed to preserve food, but because it was needed to make the taste of processed food tolerable.


The authors of this report, which appeared in the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2002 (Volume 31, Issue 2, pages 320-327), make their case so strongly that I wanted you to be able to read at least part of it verbatim:
MacGregor and de Wardener write:

Salt is no longer required for preservation. Unfortunately, with the development of processed foods, salt has once again become of great commercial importance, not only to the salt manufacturers and extractors, but also to the food and soft drinks industries. Many of the cheap processed foods are only palatable with the addition of large amounts of salt, the cheapest ingredient.

It is not surprising, therefore, that commercial interests which represent the salt manufacturers and extractors, e.g. the Salt Institute in the US and the soft drinks industry, together with many sections of the food processing industry, have co-operated in perpetuating the idea that salt is not involved in hypertension.

Nearly all government appointed bodies and nutrition experts who have considered the evidence have recommended a reduction in salt intake.

When all of the evidence is considered from epidemiological, migration, intervention, treatment trials, genetic studies in humans and animal studies that relates salt intake to blood pressure and other harmful effects, the evidence is very strong. It is stronger than evidence for other dietary variables that are also important in cardiovascular disease, e.g. saturated fat intake and fruit and vegetable consumption.

The diagram they included in their report makes the case that the commercial interests are using salt to sell more product even more strongly. I think you’ll see what I mean at a glance.

Does this make you as angry as it makes me? I hope so. If you have any thoughts about what we can do about it, please share them by commenting below. Together we can make a difference.


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