Is Salt Really Bad for Your Heart?

This, of course, puts public health doctors and health educators in a quandary. What should they now tell a public that is thoroughly persuaded -- thanks largely to them -- that there is death lurking in salt crystals, and that you might as well sprinkle your food with potassium cyanide as with poor old common salt? Why should anyone put any faith in them?

The correct advice seems to be that everyone should take not too much or too little salt, but just the right amount, so that he falls on the optimal part of the J-shaped curve. But how much is the right amount, and how are you to know that, knowing how much is the right amount, you are actually taking it? Is everyone to be provided with a chemistry set at every meal?

The world, said Boswell, should not be turned into a great hospital. A meal is not to be treated as if it were a medical procedure. If everyone could live a year longer by never eating his favorite food, would the light be worth the candle? Conversely, if life could be prolonged by eating something detestable, would it be worth living?

The paper in JAMA also showed that those with a high intake of potassium also had a low rate of cardiovascular events. Such is the state of popular hypochondriasis that this could lead to a run on bananas (high in potassium). When, some years ago, research was published that suggested -- mistakenly in the event -- that cardiovascular events were associated with or caused by low levels of selenium, a rare element, there was a run on walnuts (high in selenium), which disappeared for a time from the shelves.

I suppose the true moral of the paper in JAMA is that we should be moderate in our moderation.