By Maggie Thurber | Special to Ohio Watchdog
COLUMBUS — Federal funding and regulations are shaking up salt use in Ohio.
Recently, the Ohio Department of Aging proposed a rule that would have banned salt shakers from senior centers and meal-delivery programs, like Meals on Wheels, which get funding through the federal Older Americans Act. However, people could bring their own salt.
The state rules were revised to comply with federal government dietary guidelines issued last year.
ODA spokesman John Ratliff told Gongwer News Service that the new federal guidelines are restrictive on salt.
“But, as always, we are concerned with making sure that we are providing the citizens of Ohio with adequate choice and quality of life at the same time, so we’re trying to strike that balance,” Ratliff said.
But people weren’t happy with the ban, so ODA revised its rule to clarify that providers can supply salt shakers and packets, but they can’t use Older Americans Act funds to pay for them. The new language states:
“A provider shall not seek Older Americans Act funds from the AAA as a reimbursement for any costs it incurs to purchase salt shakers or salt packets for use by a consumer as an accompaniment to a meal. A provider may use other funding sources to supply salt seasonings as an accompaniment to a meal. Consumers may bring their own salt for seasoning their food.”
The amended rule is set for a public hearing Monday and could come before the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review by the end of the month.
But is salt the enemy?
A New York Times article suggests that, like the global warming issue, the science is far from settled, despite what low-salt proponents say:
The idea that eating less salt can worsen health outcomes may sound bizarre, but it also has biological plausibility and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, too. A 1972 paper in The New England Journal of Medicine reported that the less salt people ate, the higher their levels of a substance secreted by the kidneys, called renin, which set off a physiological cascade of events that seemed to end with an increased risk of heart disease. In this scenario: eat less salt, secrete more renin, get heart disease, die prematurely.
With nearly everyone focused on the supposed benefits of salt restriction, little research was done to look at the potential dangers. But four years ago, Italian researchers began publishing the results from a series of clinical trials, all of which reported that, among patients with heart failure, reducing salt consumption increased the risk of death.
Those trials have been followed by a slew of studies suggesting that reducing sodium to anything like what government policy refers to as a “safe upper limit” is likely to do more harm than good. These covered some 100,000 people in more than 30 countries and showed that salt consumption is remarkably stable among populations over time. In the United States, for instance, it has remained constant for the last 50 years, despite 40 years of the eat-less-salt message. The average salt intake in these populations — what could be called the normal salt intake — was one and a half teaspoons a day, almost 50 percent above what federal agencies consider a safe upper limit for healthy Americans under 50, and more than double what the policy advises for those who aren’t so young or healthy.