The New Terrapin Gazette

Number 210                                                                                                                               29 May, 2011


Innocence demands the impossible — the accomplishment of the goal without the means.


Salt And Blood Pressure

A dozen years ago, a New Terrapin staffer was told he should limit his salt intake in order to reduce his blood pressure. He objected, pointing out that (a) his intake of sodium chloride was not excessive, and that (b) in the climate where he lived at the time, the heat and humidity removed large quantities of salt from his body through heavy sweating. The protests were ignored. Subsequently, the frustrated patient researched hypertension on the internet and found a paper in Nature, the publication of The American Association for the Advancement of Science, that included these flat statements:

Public policy has generally recommended that blood pressure can best be controlled by restriction of sodium chloride intake and with medication. Recent research has, however, emphasized the powerful role of total diet in the etiology and treatment of hypertension, suggesting that the focus of current public policy regarding nutrition and blood pressure is too narrow.

Limitation of sodium chloride in food has historically been the dietary mantra of those who set nutritional policy for hypertension. Nevertheless, the importance of salt in the pathogenesis of hypertension has long been debated and remains undetermined. The intense focus on sodium began when early studies indicated that salt intake increased blood pressure. These studies, many conducted decades ago, included epidemiologic surveys in primitive societies, clinical trials in patients with kidney disease, and animal investigations in which sodium intake levels cannot be realistically extrapolated to humans. Many of these studies have since been discounted for design and methodologic flaws. But even where the methodology is sound, sodium intake cannot be linked to hypertension or higher population-wide blood pressure.

This paper was printed out and handed to the physician babbling about how salt causes high blood pressure. He ignored it. Note the date on the publication — 1998. Have the facts it summarized all those years ago been disproved? Not at all. Consider this quote (“CVD” is short for “cardiovascular disease”, of which hypertension is an example) from a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association:

In this population-based cohort, systolic blood pressure, but not diastolic pressure, changes over time aligned with change in sodium excretion, but this association did not translate into a higher risk of hypertension or CVD complications. Lower sodium excretion was associated with higher CVD mortality.

This means nothing more or less than, “Salt is not such a big deal as a cause of high blood pressure; in fact, salt is good for you, and not everybody gets enough of it.”

That’s not all. The paper written in 1998 points out that calcium intake, if increased, may be much more effective in lowering high blood pressure than restricting salt, and that too little salt will drive blood pressure up! (You can’t read the entire paper on the internet these days, but if you want a copy of it, send a request to The New Terrapin.)

Medical orthodoxy is sometimes very slow to change, and its pronouncements should never be considered sacred revealed wisdom. As this newsletter has said many times, science is not always rational, and scientists can and do behave badly. That’s a polite way of saying that the mythical aspects of the “salt is at fault” concept of blood pressure remain potent. Do you recall this newsletter’s many references to Marshall and Warren, and their long struggle to show that gastric ulcers are not caused by “excess stomach acid”?

Meanwhile, if you are suffering from high blood pressure, inform yourself, and then ask your physician a few diagnostic questions. There is no point in arguing with him — he’s the authority, and you are just an ignorant, whining layman whose responsibilities include paying him and obeying him without question — so if he gives you the tired “salt causes high blood pressure” slogan, or starts lecturing you about osmosis, change doctors.

How much salt should you consume? It’s a nutrient of benefit, so don’t avoid it. That said, don’t think that if a moderate amount is good, excess is an improvement. Do not, therefore, add salt to processed foods and fast foods, as they already contain lots of it; remember that restaurant cooks typically add salt liberally. Putting salty sauces on fresh, home-cooked vegetables and sashimi or sushi is a different matter, though; go ahead. Margaritas and straight shots of Tequila are also exempt, as are anchovies (umm, delicious). Yes, sprinkle salt on raw hamburger before frying or barbecuing, add it to the meat loaf, and so on; no harm done. Common sense is your guide, which means don’t salt simply everything, and eat very salty foods in moderation. It also means you must use iodized salt. Finally, ignore the spiritual types who claim sea salt will align your vibrations to the cosmos and clean up your aura. Sea salt is a scam.

Meanwhile, your goals should include weight control through rational eating habits (diets only make you fatter), and getting plenty of vitamin D. A glass of red wine with dinner is good for you, and there’s always the soul-enriching pleasure of a dram of Laphroaig.



Ah, the mobile phone; it’s an infernal invention if ever there was one. Its corrosive effect on humanity has yet to be appreciated. That it is considered a necessity for everyone is a sign of the decline of rationality and civility.

OK, Kids, it’s time for Fun With Barney! No, not this Barney; today it’s a close look at the improbable (almost unimaginable) Barney who helped ruin the economy of the nation. Whee! Run and get the pitchforks and torches!

This reeks. “As a result of a secret rule change implemented last year, exchanges between detainees and U.S. military officers who represent them in connection with review board proceedings at Bagram Air Base are now considered confidential.” The Obama administration issued orders for those representing Al Qaeda combatants to act more like lawyers, and made those orders secret. Secret why, and to be kept secret from whom? Clearly, Washington did not want people to know what it was doing to provide ethical treatment of its prisoners. Why would it be ashamed of such behavior? The impression created by this revelation is that the Obamites not only don’t know what they are doing, but they wish to act without oversight. They seem to fear the light of disclosure that is welcomed by defense teams in the USA. It’s as if Team Obama’s apparatchiki assume at once that whatever they are doing must remain hidden, lest decent people find out about it and react appropriately. That’s the fearfulness of operatives who are accustomed to practicing deceit in pursuit of what they know are reprehensible goals. The nation is, in other words, an employer of sneaky, guilt-ridden rascals.

Related: the insanity of current US foreign policy is exposed in an excellent video. Thanks to the lapdog media, you probably had no idea things have come to this amazing state. Highly recommended.

The folks at Apple are disappointing everyone, including this newsletter. As it turns out, the for-profit operating system Apple has adapted from a Unix clone can be compromised by malware that the user is tricked into downloading. The report here is a bit confused about terminology, but it is a wake-up call for Apple users. Could it be that folks who don’t bother to learn much about their software are easier to gull than are more knowledgeable computer users? Probably.

This is an interesting new aspect of the debate over the ethical and political implications of The Patriot Act.

If you want to understand why the USA is in such a mess, you might consider what this economist says. His words need editing and proofreading, and he is loath to find villains, yet he tries and almost manages to explain how a financial system becomes a dangerous juggernaut. Yes, his speech makes the greed and the hubris visible at times, though the political ideology and the demagoguery are not clearly illuminated. So when he concludes that, absent necessary reform, there will nevertheless be an end to the misery…you may wonder whether he understands the situation.

This video may save your life, or the life of someone you love.

Iran may have been deeply involved in the 9/11 attack on the USA. Introduction here and then more from, of all places, the NY Times. Had you heard of this? And what do you suppose The One will do?

Everyone seems to have forgotten that Pakistan is a Muslim nation.

The masthead includes a quote from the works of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

The staff of The New Terrapin Gazette expresses its sincere gratitude to the many people who have gifted the world with Arch Linux, Emacs, Screen, and Chromium.

Publisher:     The Eagle Wing Palace of The Queen Chinee