Updated federal dietary guidelines target salt, saturated fats

The federal government plans to unveil new dietary guidelines…that urge people to eat less salt…

The guidelines, which are updated every five years, recommended that those over age 51, African-Americans and people with a history of hypertension, diabetes or kidney problems limit their salt intake to a little over a half-teaspoon. For everyone else, the daily recommendation remains at 2,300 milligrams — about one teaspoon of salt.

The guidelines form the basis for the food pyramid, which [supposedly] guides Americans in their daily eating habits.

The guidelines also recommended that Americans consume less than 10% of calories from saturated fatty acids, replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. And they also suggested people limit their dietary cholesterol to 300 mg or less.

The guidelines also recommended that people should reduce their intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars and cut down on foods that contain refined grains, especially refined grain foods that contain solid fats, added sugars, and sodium.

And if people drink, the guidelines state that alcohol should be kept to one drink a day [disagree]

“The policy document assists policy makers, nutrition professionals, food-assistance program administrators, the food industry, scientists and academics and the nutrition-focused media with a consistent, science-based foundation for their nutrition efforts.”

It is ignored by virtually all American citizens other than that small portion of parents of young children who read English above a 6th-grade level. The parents, that is.

First Lady endorses Walmart’s turn to healthful food

First Lady Michelle Obama joined Walmart on Thursday as the retail giant announced a plan to make thousands of its food products more nutritious — a move supported by her campaign to reduce childhood obesity.

Walmart is promising to work with suppliers to reduce the salt and sugar in packaged foods, cut the costs of healthful fruits and vegetables, and develop a logo that consumers can use to choose healthier items. As part of its five-year plan, the company will also build stores in areas not already served by groceries.

As the nation’s biggest grocery retailer, Walmart has the clout to potentially transform the whole food marketplace, said Obama, whose “Let’s Move” campaign is targeted at combating obesity in children.

“When 140 million people a week are shopping at Walmart, then day by day and meal by meal all these small changes can start to make a big difference for our children’s health,” said the first lady, who was joined by Walmart executives as they announced the plan at a community center in Washington, D.C….

Obama said that when she first decided to take on the issue of childhood obesity, she was skeptical as to whether it could work or whether anyone was interested in making the needed changes.

“But today, when I see a company like Walmart launch an initiative like this, I feel more hopeful than ever before that the answer to these questions is yes,” she said…

Something always welcome. Whether you evaluate capitalist economics as history or global process, the buying power and collateral market effects of a giant like WalMart can be a positive as easily a negative. This is one of the former.

A secret journey to take Serbian nuclear fuel to safety

A shipment of nuclear fuel has arrived in Russia after a top-secret international operation to remove it from Serbia, where it was feared terrorists could seize it to make a nuclear or dirty bomb.

In the dead of night, armed men in balaclavas surround a long convoy of trucks in the woods just outside Belgrade. Radios crackle as they prepare for a long journey.

Their mission is to escort a dangerous cargo, the kind terrorists would dearly like to get their hands on.

Inside blue, bomb-proof, fire-proof containers on the trucks are 2.5 tons of radioactive material, including 13kg of highly enriched uranium that could be used for a nuclear weapon.

This is the largest shipment of its type ever made, and will clear Serbia of all its civilian highly enriched uranium…

RTFA. A dark, convoluted tale of an equally dark, circuitous journey.

The sort of political and industrial work remaining to be accomplished by treaty obligations that our bubbas on Congress farted around with for months – until they had sufficient time before TV cameras to justify their face time on that cardboard political stage.

Meanwhile, enough grunt work remains for decades to clean-up the crap produced to satisfy Cold Warriors and corporate profiteers.

Fixing a world that fosters fat

Why are Americans getting fatter and fatter? The simple explanation is that we eat too much junk food and spend too much time in front of screens — be they television, phone or computer — to burn off all those empty calories.

One handy prescription for healthier lives is behavior modification. If people only ate more fresh produce. (Thank you, Michael Pollan.) If only children exercised more. (Ditto, Michelle Obama.)

Unfortunately, behavior changes won’t work on their own without seismic societal shifts, health experts say, because eating too much and exercising too little are merely symptoms of a much larger malady. The real problem is a landscape littered with inexpensive fast-food meals; saturation advertising for fatty, sugary products; inner cities that lack supermarkets; and unhealthy, high-stress workplaces.

In other words: it’s the environment, stupid.

“Everyone knows that you shouldn’t eat junk food and you should exercise,” says Kelly D. Brownell, the director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale. “But the environment makes it so difficult that fewer people can do these things, and then you have a public health catastrophe.”

Dr. Brownell, who has a doctorate in psychology, is among a number of leading researchers who are proposing large-scale changes to food pricing, advertising and availability, all in the hope of creating an environment conducive to healthier diet and exercise choices…

So what kind of disruptive changes might help nudge Americans into healthier routines? Equalizing food pricing, for one.

Fast-food restaurants can charge lower prices for value meals of hamburgers and French fries than for salad because the government subsidizes the corn and soybeans used for animal feed and vegetable oil, says Barry Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the Gillings School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill…

RTFA. More depth and detail in the article.

My own very subjective take from the decades I spent on the road relies quite simply on marketing 101. Make food cheap and accessible, fast food succeeds. It succeeded so well it dominates the landscape.

Perhaps it wouldn’t have done so well if it all was noticeably crap – but, it ain’t. Taste buds are taste buds and fat and salt are food groups our species figured out were enjoyable back in cave-mouth-barbecue days. Social pressure alone has prompted the best of the fast food vendors to offer alternatives. Will that be sufficient?

As some of us have learned to walk away from other leftovers from our primitive past, we have the capacity to reason and decide upon what we eat no matter the source.

Cutting salt intake will enhance your health

If Americans cut their salt intake by just half a teaspoon per day, it would produce public health benefits on par with reducing high cholesterol, smoking, or obesity, a new study has found.

The number of heart attacks in the U.S. could decline by up to 13 percent if adults could just slash their daily salt intake by 3 grams, or about 1,200 milligrams of sodium, according to the study, which was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. New cases of heart disease and the number of strokes could also be expected to decline, by up to 11 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

To achieve a similar reduction in heart attacks and other heart-related problems, the researchers estimate, nationwide tobacco use would need to be halved. Alternatively, obese adults would need to reduce their body mass index by 5 percent, or all adults at low-to-medium risk for heart disease would need to take cholesterol-lowering statins.

Even a reduction in daily salt intake of just 1 gram (or about 400 milligrams of sodium) would produce “large declines” in the rates of cardiovascular events, according to the study.

Just targeting slightly lower salt [intake] would have some benefit for everyone in the U.S.,” says the study’s lead author, Dr. Kirsten

RTFA. Tons of detail, kilos of life-changing results – simply by removing grams of salt from your diet.

The toughest problem for many – I fear – are the hidden stashes of salt in prepared food, restaurants, canned and frozen foods from manufacturers who feel they need that extra dash of salt just to cover everyone’s choice.

13 months ago I essentially quit all added salt in my food preparation. My wife doesn’t add salt to food, anyway; so, there was no conflict. And I was surprised how easy it was for me.

I grew up in a family of heavy salt users. I have a favorite salt that sometimes has to be ordered in because I can’t count on getting locally [it’s from Malden, England]. But, with a reasonable amount of friendly herbs and spices – no overcompensation – I have to say the decline in salt consumption has equalled the results from a similar decision I made about sugar a few years further back.

New York City says, “Hold the salt!”

First New York City required restaurants to cut out trans fat. Then it made restaurant chains post calorie counts on their menus. Now it wants to protect people from another health scourge: salt.

Today, the Bloomberg administration unveiled a broad new health initiative aimed at encouraging food manufacturers and restaurant chains across the country to curtail the amount of salt in their products.

The plan, for which the city claims support from health agencies in other cities and states, sets a goal of reducing the amount of salt in packaged and restaurant food by 25 percent over the next five years.

Public health experts say that would reduce the incidence of high blood pressure and should help prevent some of the strokes and heart attacks associated with that condition. The plan is voluntary for food companies and involves no legislation. It allows companies to cut salt gradually over five years so the change is not so noticeable to consumers.

“We all consume way too much salt, and most of the salt we consume is in the food when we buy it,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, the city health commissioner, whose department is leading the effort. Eighty percent of the salt in Americans’ diets comes from packaged or restaurant food. Dr. Farley said reducing salt from those sources would save lives…

Geoffrey Cowley, an associate health commissioner, said officials hoped the campaign would work through public pressure. Companies that complied would benefit from good publicity…

The federal government recommends that sodium intake from salt be limited to 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams a day, with the latter figure equaling about a teaspoon. But the average adult in this country consumes about 3,400 milligrams a day.

A&P Supermarkets and Subway fast food shops have already announced they will join the campaign.

Arizona desalting plant starts pilot run next spring – finally

Cienega de Santa Clara

A decision has been made to conduct a pilot run of the Yuma Desalting Plant in May…

The plant, west of Yuma, was essentially completed in 1992. Initial operational testing was conducted at about one-third capacity until early 1993, when it was stopped after flooding on the Gila River damaged a portion of the irrigation drainage canal…

“Drought, population growth and the continuing need for water in the Southwest have increased the demand on the Colorado River,” Lorri Gray-Lee said. “This collaborative undertaking is one more example of the ongoing state-federal partnership effort to address the drought’s impacts, conserve and stretch the river’s water supply and identify and secure additional supplies…”

About 21,700 acre-feet of desalted water will be produced during the pilot run. This water will be combined with 7,300 acre-feet of untreated irrigation drainage water and the total amount – 29,000 acre-feet – will be discharged into the Colorado River and included in deliveries to Mexico as required by treaty…

Construction of the desalting plant was authorized by the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act of 1974. Its purpose was to desalt irrigation drainage water flows from the Wellton-Mohawk Irrigation and Drainage District so a portion of that water could be included in treaty-required deliveries of Colorado River water to Mexico. Since 1977, this drainage water has been conveyed from the district to the Cienega, bypassing the desalting plant.

At this time, Reclamation is not proposing to operate the plant beyond the pilot run, Gray-Lee said. “Any decision about the plant’s future will be made after the pilot run is completed or terminated…

Perish the thought you should hurry the process. Follow usual political standards and wait until water has run out in the region for a decade or two – so you won’t affront know-nothing skeptics or this week’s hate-the-furriner crowd.

Consuming just a wee bit less salt could mean fewer deaths

You all know this; but, it’s worth being reminded.


For every gram of salt that Americans reduce in their diets daily, a quarter of a million fewer new heart disease cases and over 200,000 fewer deaths would occur over a decade, researchers said… These results were derived from a validated computer-simulation of heart disease among U.S. adults.

“A very modest decrease in the amount of salt — hardly detectable in the taste of food — can have dramatic health benefits for the U.S.,” said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Ph.D., M.D., M.A.S., lead author of the study and an assistant professor of Medicine and of Epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco. “It was a surprise to see the magnitude of the impact on the population, given the very small reductions in salt that we were modeling.”

A 3-gram–a-day reduction in salt intake (about 1200 mg of sodium) would result in 6 percent fewer cases of new heart disease, 8 percent fewer heart attacks, and 3 percent fewer deaths. Even larger health benefits are projected for African Americans, who are more likely to have high blood pressure and whose blood pressure may be more sensitive to salt. Among African Americans, new heart disease cases would be reduced by 10 percent, heart attacks by 13 percent and deaths by 6 percent.

For years, ample evidence has linked salt intake to high blood pressure and heart disease. Yet, salt consumption among Americans has risen by 50 percent and blood pressure has risen by nearly the same amount since the 1970s.

It’s clear that we need to lower salt intake, but individuals find it hard to make substantial cuts because most salt comes from processed foods, not from the salt shaker,” Bibbins-Domingo said. “Our study suggests that the food industry and those who regulate it could contribute substantially to the health of the nation by achieving even small reductions in the amount of salt in these processed foods.”

I’m just being extra smug. My New Year’s Resolution was to dramatically cut back on salt. Not that I used an excessive amount – and I skip crap processed foods altogether; but, I love Maldon Sea Salt and there were a couple of favorite snacks where I did use it. And didn’t need to. Like putting a slice of ripe tomato on a thick slice of Mozzarella, drizzling it with a little extra virgin olive oil – and a pinch [sort of] of Maldon Sea Salt. Yum.

So, now I leave off the salt. Most of the time. 🙂

Rising sea salinates India’s Ganges River

Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Rising sea levels are causing salt water to flow into India’s biggest river, threatening its ecosystem and turning vast farmlands barren in the country’s east, a climate change expert warned Monday.

A study by an east Indian university in the city of Kolkata revealed surprising growth of mangroves on the Ganges river, said Pranabes Sanyal, the eastern India representative of the National Coastal Zone Management Authority (NCZMA).

“This phenomenon is called extension of salt wedge and it will salinate the groundwater of Kolkata and turn agricultural lands barren in adjoining rural belts,” said Sanyal, an expert in global warming.

Sea levels in some parts of the Bay of Bengal were rising at 3.14 mm annually against a global average of 2 mm, threatening the low-lying areas of eastern India…

Sanyal and the department of Oceanography at the Kolkata-based Jadavpur University spotted the mangrove plants, a rare phenomenon along the Ganges river belt, where east India’s biggest city of Kolkata with 12 million people lies.

Mangroves are more typically found 100 km (60 miles) away in the swampy Sundarban archipelago spread over a 26,000 sq km (10,000 sq mile) area on the world’s largest delta region.

6500 years ago, the sea extended all the way to the northern fringe of Kolkata. The delta of the Ganges has naturally reached out over all this time; but, now, the sea encroaches faster than the delta grows.