Wednesday, May 4, 2011

This week in overturning the paradigm

This week in overturning the paradigm

Here are the headlines associated with several links that came back from doing a search related to a newly released study...

"Study Shows Salty Diet Good; Heart Group Disagrees"

"Low-Salt Diets Reduce Heart Disease Risk, Right? A Study Disagrees"

"New Study Questions Whether We Should All Be Ducking Salt"

"Controversial new study suggests low-salt diet increases risk of death"

"Health Buzz: Eating Less Salt May Not Help Heart Health"

"Sodium won't kill you? Scientists shake up what we know about salt"

"Low-sodium diet may not be helpful, study suggests"

There is a range there from hinting that sodium intake is not much of a health factor to suggestion more salt is better such that reading all of them one could easily think they do not all refer to the same single study. Across the board there is a sign of conflict. Keep that in mind. Let us go a little more in depth on this conflict with this article from WebMD.

In summary, in this new study "[p]eople with the highest sodium levels had a significantly lower risk of dying from heart disease than did people with the lowest sodium levels."

Those in the business of selling salt applaud and are ready to call this the whole story. "Predictably, [American Heart Association] guidelines ... drew fire from the Salt Institute, the trade group representing the salt industry. The group has been quick to herald the European findings. 'We now know conclusively that the U.S. government's war on salt consumption will cause harm,' Lori Roman, president of the Salt Institute, says in a news release."

Ralph L. Sacco, MD, president of the American Heart Association and chairman of the neurology department at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, responds by rattling off multiple issues with this new study itself as well as noting that the conventional wisdom calling for limited salt intake is well-established.

In the end, what will many of the casual browsers who came across this news take away from? I can hear the voices talking about how they read that more salt is good for you.

There very well might be something to this new study that will hold up to time and further investigation and is contrary to the conventional wisdom. But this one study does not "shake up what we know about salt" as one of the above-noted links said so cleverly (salt shaker, shake, get it?).

What though is likely to spark interest and catch eyes? Conflict. Disagreement. Saying that what we thought we knew is wrong and something else is true. So things carrying the whiff of that get sold by the supposedly neutral media, to say nothing of the Salt Institutes of the world that are looking for benefit from overturning the paradigm.

There can be many headlines like, "More research shows low-sodium diet good for you" that barely cause a ripple while a single headline suggestive of more salt being better can receive a massive push and cause waves. That happens regularly with climate science. Study after study build and tweak our knowledge and understanding fully consistent with anthropogenic climate change being quite real. A few make the general headlines, but most do not. Yet the rare item even hinting at fundamental (or sometimes even marginal) disagreement is picked up and trumpeted by those who so wish that climate change is no concern.

It can actually be funny when that frenzy leads to misinterpretation and an own-goal. Last year the retraction of a paper studying sea level rise was celebrated by some as meaning the rise was not occurring. Actually the retraction was because of problems with the paper such that the lower numbers cited in it were not actually supported, and the evidence was actually consistent with previous work that pointed to more sea level rise that the low end the paper suggested.

Just remember, a study can safely always be assumed to not overturn our understanding. That is true regardless of the direction it supposedly flips things. We have compiled a lot of evidence putting the Charney sensitivity around 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Something new out of the blue saying it is either 1F or 10F should be viewed skeptically. Follow the full weight of all the evidence, not just that latest new thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment