Saturday, April 25, 2009

The anti-salt craze again

I know of no deaths that can non-speculatively be traced to excess salt intake but I can show you lots from hyponatremia (too little salt). See e.g. here

Most of the salt we eat in our diets is hidden in the likes of processed foods and ready-made meals such as sandwiches. And that's the rub with salt. No matter how much we cut back during cooking and at the table, we are still likely to exceed the recommended daily maximum of 6g because 85 per cent of our intake is buried in places we least expect it - in everything from our favourite sarnies [sandwiches], to biscuits, cereals, curries and crisps.

We don't need any additional salt in our diet and it only became popular when we got used to the taste after using it to preserve foods. It may enhance flavour, but it also increases your odds of developing high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke [speculation only] - so much so that some experts now refer to it as a toxin.

Salt has been vying with smoking and obesity as the new Public Enemy No 1 since the Food Standards Agency launched a campaign to cut national consumption. The organisation believes that half the British population are currently eating too much of it, and that cutting consumption by the equivalent of just half a teaspoonful a day could prevent as many as 70,000 strokes and heart attacks every year.

Most people in Britain are already well aware of the [supposed] link between salt intake and high blood pressure, and the resulting damage to the circulation that leads to stroke and heart attack, and have started to cut back. Salt sales are down from 55,000 tonnes a year in 1985 to less than 30,000 tonnes a year today, but the impact on the amount that we actually consume has been negligible because the drop pales into insignificance when compared with the 220,000 tonnes added every year to processed or pre-prepared foods such as sandwiches.

Reducing the amount of salt consumed at home is relatively easy. The palate quickly adjusts in much the same way that it does when you stop taking sugar in tea or coffee, and within four to six weeks most people no longer miss it. Unfortunately their efforts are rarely rewarded because the vast majority of their salt daily intake is likely to be hidden in processed foods and spotting this is very difficult.

And then there is the artery- clogging fat. You could be forgiven for thinking that a Marks & Spencer Vegetarian Cheese and Chutney Sandwich would be a healthy option for a quick bite when you are in a hurry. Yet, according to Which?, it contains more fat than a Big Mac, and more calories than you care to think about.

But fat and salt make foods palatable and tasty, and encourage you to buy them. Until we all adapt our palates to a low- salt, low-fat diet, don't expect the retailers to discontinue their most profitable lines without enormous amounts of pressure. And until they do, and I wouldn't hold your breath, read all labels carefully and choose accordingly.


Pancreatic cancer therapy 'hope'

Promising early results for a drug for pancreatic cancer have been reported by a team of UK and US scientists. The drug, which targets a molecule called PKD involved in tumour growth, also seemed effective in animal tests on lung cancer, the researchers said. The findings are especially encouraging because there are few treatments available and survival is poor. Human trials should start within 18 months, the American Association for Cancer Research conference was told.

PKD is a family of molecules called kinases which provide a signalling function between the outside and inside of the cell. Also involved in cell survival and the formation of new blood vessels, PKD was discovered to be potentially key target in tumours by UK researchers some years ago. A team at Cancer Research Technology Ltd - a company owned by Cancer Research UK - then developed molecules which would inhibit the effects of PKD. The latest results on the resulting drug, known as CRT0066101, show it inhibits the growth of pancreatic tumours in mice and works in lung cancer models. It is thought that future studies may show the drug to be effective on a wider range of cancers.

Human trials should be starting after safety studies have been completed, they researchers said. CRT's discovery laboratories director Dr Hamish Ryder said the team focused on pancreatic and lung cancer tumours because they are cancers with a "significant unmet medical need".

Dr Sushovan Guha, who leads the laboratory at MD Anderson Cancer Center and collaborated in the project, added he was optimistic about the drug's potential. In addition to killing cancer cells, it is hoped the drug will stop tumours growing and spreading by blocking blood vessel growth. "This would mean it offers a double action treatment but this needs to be proved through further work."

Sue Ballard, the founder of Pancreatic Cancer UK, said the disease caused 5% of cancer deaths but only received 1% of disease funding. "There is a great lack of really effective treatments, surgery gives the best chance if done early but even in that situation it can recur or spread. "This research is in the very early stages but anything that's starting to show promising results is vitally needed."


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