Junk Science: Take It With a Grain of Salt

MSNBC.com, December 6, 2004.

The always-interestingJunkScience.comhas announced thetop 10"Most Embarrassing" junk science stories of 2004. As is the norm with fear-mongering junk science, the mainstream media treated all of these stories as if they were authentic science.

Some of my favorites: Although the Bible says that "Salt is good" (Luke 14:34), the health nannies have spent the last three decades trying to frighten people about salt. There's even an anti-salt lobby,CASH(Consensus Action on Salt and Health), which is gearing up for a frightfest on the sixth annual "Salt Awareness Day," January 26, 2005. The anti-salt lobby and their government allies claim that salt kills hundreds of thousands of people per year.

Earlier this year, theInstitute of Medicine(part of the federalNational Academies of Science) earned 9thplace in the JunkScience awards for areportdeclaring that Americans should cut their salt consumption by 50 percent. But as JunkSciencepointed out, there isnoscientific evidence for the notion that a low-sodium diet is beneficial for the population. There are some salt-sensitive individuals who should restrict their salt intake, but telling the general public to behave as if were salt-sensitive is no more sensible than telling everyone to eat as if they all had peanut allergies.

The subtext of the war on salt is class warfare on processed food, which often has high salt content--because salt makes food taste better! There are lots of good reasons why some people prefer fresh organic potatoes fromWhole Foodsto a bag ofLay's Potato Chips, even though Lay's provides the chips in 19 different flavors. But trying to convince people to give up processed foods (or the real objective: coercing food companies to reduce salt, and thereby deprive consumers of choice) by telling tall tales about deadly salt is like trying to scare teenagers give up "self-pleasuring" by warning that it will make them go insane. (The warning about onanistic insanity, by the way, was thestandard teachingof the "public health" community from the mid-18thcentury until the early 20th.)

Another JunkScience award-winner for 2004 was theAmerican Public Health Association, for giving an award to Erin Brokovich, a paralegal who made herself rich and famous by pushingscientifically ridiculousallegations that a utility made people sick.

And then there was thearctic climate reportwhich claimed that normal climate cycles in the arctic were proof of global warming, and would drive polar bears to extinction.

In the mainstream media, stories which begin "Scientists say…" often end: "…and therefore more government regulation is absolutely necessary."JunkScience.com, run by theCato Institute'sprolificSteven Milloy, is a year-round antidote to the unscientific panics incited by big government and the scientists who love it.

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