Too Much Salt, America

When you eat too much salt — and you probably do — the problems mount pretty quickly. First it gets into your blood and confuses your kidneys, leaving too much water flowing through your blood vessels, which raises your blood pressure and, eventually, your risk of cardiovascular disease — the world’s No. 1 killer.

So everyone should just stop eating so much salt. Putting down the shaker isn’t enough, though, because three-fourths of the salt in the American diet is in processed and prepared foods: breads, pastas, salad dressings, cereals and countless other products. Reducing this kind of salt will require that government food regulators, after years of delay, finally set limits on sodium in food.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to soon issue a draft of its first such limits. These will almost certainly be voluntary — not the most reliable approach, but food makers should be made to understand that if sodium content doesn’t come down, the limits could be made mandatory. The best approach would be to gradually lower sodium targets until Americans on average are consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams a day.

That’s one teaspoon of salt. Nine in 10 Americans now consume more than that. If they could cut back to less than 2,300 milligrams a day, 100,000 lives a year would be saved, according to the Institute of Medicine.

Voluntary sodium targets can make a difference: In the U.K., deaths from heart disease and the incidence of high blood pressure have fallen substantially since limits were adopted in 2006.

Food companies already understand the need for limits. Mars Food, which makes Uncle Ben’s rice, recently pledged to lower the average sodium content of its products by 20 percent over the next five years. Meanwhile, Nestle, whose brands include Gerber and Lean Cuisine, says it has already reduced sodium content by 23 percent since 2005 and will keep cutting.

One reason for the FDA’s delay has been dispute over the benefit of cutting salt. There’s good evidence that eating a lot of salt raises blood pressure and that high blood pressure raises the risk of heart disease and stroke. But critics, citing recent studies, have questioned whether low salt intake really lowers the risk of death from heart disease for everyone. However, many scientists say those newer studies haven’t measured sodium accurately.

Prominent labeling should be part of the FDA’s strategy, to help consumers choose foods carefully. And the agency will also have to monitor what’s inside the package, to make sure that the salt is coming out.

Gradual reductions in sodium also make sense from a commercial standpoint, because at this point people’s palates are accustomed to a lot of salt. Cut back quickly — as Campbell Soup tried several years ago — and consumers’ taste may not readily adjust.

Most Americans know that they eat too much salt. What they may not realize is that they need the government’s help to eat less of it.

Source: Bloomberg

Chinese-style Pan-fried Lotus Root Cake


4 oz lotus root, diced
8 oz ground pork
1 piece Chinese sausage
2 pieces Chinese dried mushroom, soaked, softened and diced
1 stalk cilantro, coarsely chopped


1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp cornstarch


  1. Mix seasoning ingredients with ground pork. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  2. Add all the other ingredients to the pork. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Divide pork mixture into 4 to 6 portions. Form each portion into a flat round cake.
  4. Add 1 tbsp oil to a non-stick skillet. Pan-fry the cakes in low heat for 4 to 5 minutes each side, until the pork is fully cooked and the cakes are nicely browned.

Make 4 to 6 cakes.

Source: Hong Kong magazine

In Pictures: Hamburgers of New York City Restaurants

Message for Heart Failure Patients: Exercise

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Physical activity may help extend survival for patients with heart failure, a new review suggests.

“Patients with heart failure should not be scared of exercise damaging them or killing them,” said principal investigator Rod Taylor, director of the Exeter Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Exeter Medical School, in England.

“The message for heart failure patients is clear. Exercise is good for you, it will make you feel better, and it could potentially make you live longer,” Taylor said in a European Society of Cardiology news release.

The findings stem from an analysis of 20 trials involving more than 4,000 people with heart failure. Overall, exercise was associated with an 18 percent lower risk of death from all causes and an 11 percent lower risk of hospitalization, compared to not exercising, the researchers said.

While they can’t prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship between exercise and survival, the researchers said benefits were seen in both men and women and regardless of heart failure severity or age.

Heart failure means the heart no longer pumps efficiently enough to meet the body’s demands. Symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue and fluid buildup in the legs. There’s no cure for the condition, which affects about 5.7 million people in the United States, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Taylor said exercise may benefit heart failure patients in several ways. It improves physical fitness, boosts oxygen supply to the heart, reduces the risk of abnormal heart rhythms that can cause sudden death, and improves circulation.

Taylor said he’s not advising taking up marathon running.

“This is about increasing one’s routine physical activity — for example, walking for 20 to 30 minutes three times a week at an intensity that makes you feel a little bit breathless but not necessarily symptomatic,” he said.

But talk to a doctor before starting an exercise program. “Discuss it with your cardiologist or GP with the belief that it’s going to benefit you,” Taylor added.

“Personalizing interventions and targeting resources is a hot topic in health care,” Taylor said. “Our research shows that all patients with heart failure should be encouraged to exercise. Policymakers and clinicians should therefore not deny any heart failure patient the chance to participate in exercise rehabilitation on the basis that it will not work for them.”

The findings were presented Monday in Florence, Italy, at the European Society of Cardiology’s annual meeting on heart failure. Until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, the findings should be considered preliminary.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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