Live Heart Healthy. Live Well & Live Long

Starbucks: Take the High Road to Lowering Salt Levels

by | Jan 8, 2014

I am shocked, to say the least. My favorite coffee place now is pushing mocha with added salt. I have found out that many Starbucks outlets offer this salted mocha and some advertise it as if there were not enough people already lined up to order it.

Starbucks, I am sure you’ve have done your marketing research. Just the novelty of salty mocha will tempt enough curious individuals try a cup. In fact that is exactly how I was made aware of this new offering. I overheard the lady behind me in the line tell her friend, “Oh look, I want to try that mocha with salt.” I looked up and noticed the ad on the marquee. As a surgeon who deals on a daily basis with the fallout of people eating too much salt, you can imagine my disappointment

I am not a regular coffee drinker, but I do like my coffee in my travels. Since my nephew introduced me to Starbucks, no other cup of coffee seem to measure up. When I am on the road, running low on gas, I look for an exit with a Starbucks, sometimes even at the risk of running out of gas. At the airport, same thing. Sometimes I go all the way to a different terminal to get a cup of Starbucks. When I go shopping with my family, I get a cup of Starbucks in or on the way to the mall. Then I sit down some place and relax over my cup of delicious coffee, so my family members can take their time. Even when I’m grocery shopping, I tend to go to the market that has a Starbucks; I keep sipping my cup of java while I find everything on the grocery list.

I am definitely not the only one. You can tell by the long lines at almost every Starbucks that thousands of people love Starbucks and many like me will go the extra mile for a cup. So you can imagine my concern when such a hugely popular chain is suddenly pushing salt.

Come on Starbucks, you don’t have to do this. Given your popularity you could actually do a lot of good by becoming involved in preventing cardiovascular disease rather than contributing to it. There are multiple opportunities for you to do so. For starters, stop selling salty mocha. Make available unsalted nuts and other salt-free snack combinations. Just as you sell and promote music, sell healthy ideas such as my book for instance. Helping to promote the healthy salt-related guidelines issued by the AHA. AMA, WHO etc. and making your clients’ health priority #1 could launch you even higher.

Not convinced that salt is a problem? Consider these recent developments:

1. WHO issued a very strongly worded crisis statement regarding high blood pressure citing 1 billion known hypertensive people around the world. India and China each have stated that they have 300 million citizens suffering from high blood pressure. Even though this release brought salt awareness to center stage, the population at large still doesn’t pay attention to the prevalence of hypertension or how salt contributes to it.

2. A team from Yale and Harvard has shown that the cells responsible for auto immune diseases thrive in proportion to salt. The lead researchers plainly stated that “how soon and how severe even genetic auto immune diseases such as MS manifest is proportional to salt intake”. The list of known auto immune diseases is several pages long and one out of every four Americans suffers from one of them.

3. Very recently, the British Medical Journal reported in a study of more than 1.2 million Britons that over-the-counter pain pills containing sodium (with an average sodium content of merely 24 mg) increase the risk of hypertension seven fold. The same report found a 28 percent increase in cardiovascular mortality in just the seven years of the study period.

This last issue may be by far the most telling reason why Starbucks should back away from offering salty mocha and the like. Simply adding what one considers a little bit of salt to an everyday drink could prove fatal.

Starbucks, please take the high road. Cut back on the salt in all your offerings and help your customers with better health.


  1. Sania Anand

    Thanks for this article. I'm a Starbucks fan myself. I'll keep note of the extra salt!

  2. Tracy S. RN

    Thanks for the info Dr. Neravetla.  I really like Starbucks coffee myself.  I will pass this infomration to my family and friends.

  3. Vishal Gupta

    Nice article. These articles made us aware of Salt. Now we tend to check Sodium content in various consumables.


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