Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Salt and obesity

It's the oldest trick in the book. Put out a bowl of complimentary peanuts or pretzels at the bar and people will order more drinks. It's simple logic: Make ’em thirsty and they'll buy more to slake their thirst.

This is the phenomenon behind the salt-soda-obesity connection. In a recent study, researchers in Finland have concluded that people who eat a lot of salt also drink a lot of high-calorie drinks (sugary sodas, mostly), which contributes in a major way to obesity.

The researchers have connected a lot of dots, of course, but if you look at the salt sales in this country, there has been a nearly 90% increase since the mid-'80s. And of course we all know about the obesity epidemic.

In poll conducted by The Wall Street Journal and the Harris Poll, concern over salt intake has finally sunk to fifth place, behind fat (still the top concern), calories, sugar and nutritional value. Parents are no longer checking food labels for salt levels. But maybe they should be. (Of course, if you ask me, they shouldn't even be buying those sugary drinks that are part of this salt-soda-obesity triangle.)

So other than a general recommendation to stop buying salty snacks and definitely stop buying soda, I would also suggest that you start looking at the salt levels of food again. Don't go crazy. Just keep an eye on what your kids (and the rest of your family) are eating.

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