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John W. Pinkerton


Once while visiting a doctor, the physician leaned forward and knowingly informed me, “We all know how bad salt is for our health.”  I, of course, simply nodded my agreement while secretly thinking, “What an ass.”

At a later date while visiting another physician, the subject of salt arose again.  The doctor sighed and then pronounced, “The dangers of salt are much overstated.  It only has adverse effects on about ten percent of the population.”  Aha!  I have at last found a wise man.

In my youth I worked two summers for a Louisiana highway survey crew.  Summers in Louisiana are brutal.  During the first summer with the crew, I seemed to be becoming weaker and weaker.  When I told an older fellow on the crew that I seemed to be losing strength, he replied, “Salt.”

I purchased salt tablets and began taking them almost each time I had a cup of water on the job.  After a few days, I realized I no longer felt weak.  I’ve been a fan of salt ever since.

I’m sometimes criticized for salting food even before I taste it.  So be it.  For me it’s almost impossible to overdo the amount of salt on food which appeals to my tastebuds.  Perhaps this is an inherited trait: my mother, now 96, even salts her buttered toast.

My nephew adds no salt to his food.  I assume this is for “health” reasons.  He’s managed to get through the Iraqi conflict and a year in Afghanistan without salt.  I am hesitant to mention my views on salt to him; after all, he knows his body better than I.  However, I feel a little uneasy about the wisdom of his choice.

Usually when we think of salt, we think of the salt shaker on our dining tables, but this use of salt only accounts for about 6% of the  over 2010 million tons of salt mined or evaporated from water sources around the world: 12% is used in water conditioning, 8% for de-icing highways, and 6% in agriculture.  68% is used in manufacturing and other industrial uses.  The principal chemical products derived from salt are soda and glycerine.  It is used in everything from rubber production to the production of plastics, paper pulp, and pottery glazes.

Evidence of salt processing dates back 6000 years to Romania and China.  The Byzantines, Egyptians, Greeks, Hebrews, Hittites, and Romans prized salt.  Salt was a trade commodity which was transported by ship and along salt roads around the world.  Wars were fought over and taxes were raised via salt and religious ceremonies incorporated salt.

In the the Old Testament, salt is mentioned in thirty-five verses: in the Book of Job “Can that which is unsavory be eaten without salt?” and, of course, Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt.  In the New Testament, salt is mentioned six times: in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus referred to his followers as the “salt of the earth.”  Almost all faiths of the world make mention of or incorporate salt into their religious ceremonies: Muhammad said, “God sent down four blessings from the sky—fire, water, iron, and salt.”

Now, back to my personal observation that salt does a body good.

A recent study by the Institute of Health concludes that the amount of salt presently being consumed by Americans is not only healthy, but the recommended lower dosages are harmful to folks.

It has been found that the reduction of salt intake can result in increased mortality from congestive heart failure, increases in cholesterol and triglycerides, increases in Types 1 and 2 diabetes, cognition loss, stress, dehydration, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and overall increased morbidity and mortality.

For a few people to a small degree, blood pressure may be lowered by a reduction of the consumption of salt; thankfully, there are other means of reducing blood pressure.

In other words, my admiration of salt has been vindicated.  It took long enough.