Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Mythbusters [Salt and Hypertension]

¡Hola! Everybody...
As a New Yorker, the best thing I can say today (sports-wise) is that the at least the Yankees don’t suck... LOL

* * *

-=[ Bacalao con Viandas ]=-

The other day, I had the pleasure of ordering one of my favorite dishes: bacalao con vianda. Viandas are vegetables: yautias (taro root) malanga (root vegetable with brown skin and white or purple flesh), papas (potatoes), plátanos (plantain bananas), yucas (cassava), ñames (root vegetable with brown skin and white flesh), batatas (sweet potatoes). These are mixed with onions sliced into rings, Olive oil, sliced hard-boiled eggs, aguacates (avocados), and sliced tomatoes. I love this dish! My dear departed grandmother ate a plate of this everyday of her life and she lasted until her mid 90s -- a vibrant, ass-kicking old lady. LOL .It’s a very West African-influenced dish.

Anyway, I love smothering the vianda with olive oil and sal5t -- lots of salt! As I covered the various toot vegetables with salt, my friends immedat5ely pounced, admonishing me for using so much salt and reminding me that high blood pressure (hypertension) runs in Latino/a culture.

I didn’t want to argue, but the connection between salt and hypertension is overblown, to say the least... plus, if I want to use salt, muthafuckas, I’ll use salt! LOL

This claim remains controversial in the medical community. Well, at least according to my research. The more researchers delve into this issue, the more difficult it becomes to justify. In fact, a 1988 editorial in the British Medical Journal, after reviewing a slew of studies, concluded that, “the evidence that salt is [an] important [contributor to high blood pressure] is weak... [and] the more complex the analysis the weaker the relation.”

The body of literature regarding this issue is so vast, that no one could successfully synthesize all the findings. What happens usually is that one camp will select studies that favor their position. However, more recent studies show that there never really was a connection between salt and hypertension. And when you look at the studies, you begin to get a picture of why. The way it was explained to me is that the subject has been studied in three basic ways. The first searches for a connection between salt consumption and hypertension within a given society. Such research has been fruitless. In one of the largest such studies, which tested 7,000 residents of Scotland, it turned out that weight and age were much moiré reliable predictors of hypertension than salt consumption was. “The true association between sodium and blood pressure is extremely weak,” the researchers surmised.

The second approach is to look at many different countries to see whether the places where hypertension is common are also places where people consume a lot of salt. The results from one huge study of more than 10,000 subjects at fifty-two testing centers around the world did find an association between sodium in the urine and systolic blood pressure. However, upon close examination, the link turned out to be far less impressive. Once adjustments were made for the subjects’ age, weight, and alcohol consumption, the relation was statistically significant in only eight of the fifty-two centers. And when the results from four nonindustrialized societies (where salt consumption was extremely low) were set aside, the relation vanished.

Of course, even if high salt consumption and high blood pressure did go hand in hand, that wouldn’t prove that one causes the other. Something else could be at work -- a third factor that might be associated with certain eating habits and hypertension. That would explain the paradox of Japan, where salt usage is high, but blood pressure is not.

In the last type of study, researchers ask people to eat less salt and then watch to see what happens to their blood pressure. One review of twelve such studies found that sodium restriction was a useful strategy for older patients with hypertension. However, there wasn’t any reason to think that using less salt would lower the blood pressure of people who are hypertensive to begin with. In addition, such studies have nothing to say about whether salt caused the hypertension -- an idea that has become increasingly doubtful as the studies have become more sophisticated.

I always say that a little moderation in is always a worthwhile goal when it comes to diet. In the meantime, I will slather my bacalao con vianda with lots of salt and olive oil!




  1. yo, eddie, sea salt is the key!! its proven to balance and nutrifies our body with minerals. Much better than processed salts FYI :)  same with olive oil, best to eat virgin olive oil that hasnt been through the refining process!  As with any food, best to go as natural as possible. ... that meal looks scumptious too btw

  2. I diodn't know that about sea salt, Zoe. Thanks for the heads up. And yeah, I think the real takeaway here is that it's almost never is one factor that leads to bad health; it's more often a host of factors.

  3. LOL @ real takeaway ...pardon the pun?

    Yeah I got that was the premise of your blog :P, its funny how people focus on the "one" thing thats allegedly ruining everything, like the new "no trans fats" LMAO...for fark sake people!!!! We ALL know what is good for us and what isnt, we just live in denial like with most things.

    Well denial and convenience for our lazy asses ..... but its the foods fault we have an obesity issue ...


What say you?


[un]Common Sense