The Battle Over the Biggest Killer in the American Diet
296 pp., 6 x 9 in, 11 b&w illus.
- Published: September 14, 2021
- Published: October 20, 2020
- Published: October 20, 2020
How food industry lobbyists and a small group of scientists have successfully fought government efforts to reduce dangerous levels of sodium in our food.
A high-sodium diet is deadly; studies have linked it to high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks. It's been estimated that excess sodium in the American diet causes as many as 100,000 deaths and many billions of dollars in avoidable health-care costs each year. And yet salt is everywhere in our diets—in packaged foods, fast foods, and especially meals at table-service restaurants. Why hasn't salt received the sort of public attention and regulatory action that sugar and fat have? In Salt Wars, Michael Jacobson explains how the American food industry and a small group of scientists have successfully fought government efforts to reduce dangerous levels of sodium in our food.
Despite an abundance of research going back more than half a century showing that high-sodium diets lead to hypertension and other ills, a few scientists argue the opposite—that Americans consume a healthy amount of salt and that eating less would increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. This “man bites dog” take on sodium confused consumers and was enthusiastically taken up by food industry lobbyists. Jacobson, a salt wars combatant for more than forty years, explains what science actually says about salt intake and rebuts “sodium skeptics.” He discusses what other countries are doing to cut dietary salt, and describes some recent victories in the United States. He advises readers how to reduce salt—warning them against “salt bombs” (Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup, for example, packs an entire day's worth of sodium in one can)—and calls on them to suit up for the next battle in the salt wars.
In this highly readable book, Michael Jacobson recounts the battles between public health advocates, food industries, and right-wing politicians with exquisite documentation and illustrates how a responsible government can protect its citizens while sharply reducing the costs of health care. This is a must-read for those who care about health.
Walter Willett, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health
No one has rattled the processed food industry more than Michael Jacobson, and now with Salt Wars, he's holding the companies accountable at a time when our health has never mattered more.
Michael Moss, author of Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
Public health authorities advise eating less salt as a way to prevent high blood pressure, but a few scientists disagree. For anyone confused by these arguments, Salt Wars is a must-read. Michael Jacobson has been fighting these wars for decades, and his assessment of the research on both sides—and the policy implications—is exceptionally fair, balanced, and fascinating.
Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, Emerita, New York University; author of Let's Ask Marion
The evidence for reducing our salt intake is overwhelming, and yet there is still delay and obfuscation—as a result, hundreds of thousands are dying unnecessarily from strokes and heart disease. Jacobson brilliantly exposes the hidden war fought by the salt and food industry.
Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Queen Mary University of London
With wit and ease, Jacobson takes readers through the basics (how much salt we eat, where we get it, and the health concerns connected with it) and the minutiae (a take-down of the so-called “sodium sceptics” and the scant if promising progress of regulation from Congress) to offer a clear picture of what consumers should do when we sit down for our next meal.
In his new book, Salt Wars, scientist Michael F. Jacobson makes a compelling argument that salt presents a singular threat to life and finance… One of the most important takeaways of Salt Wars, though, has little to do with salt, although it may well raise your blood pressure. Sodium wars are just one more example of how effective modern propaganda tactics can be in our post-fact world.
The Washington Post Book World