Junkfood Science: Mr. Greenjeans does science

March 27, 2009

Mr. Greenjeans does science

Imagine if Mr. Greenjeans* decided to write a recommendation that every adult who was over 5 feet tall needed to take one of his green pills every day to be healthy. He then conducted a study in which he totaled the number of adults in the United States who was over 5 feet tall and found that his recommendation would apply to nearly all adults.

● Did Mr. Greenjeans just prove that most everyone “should” be taking his green pills?

● Did he just prove that his green pills are effective in making people healthy?

● Did he just prove that most adults are deficient in green pills?

LOL! Of course not. No one would fall for this fallacy of logic, right? Mr. Greenjeans didn’t do any science, nor a lick of research to test his green pills. Yet, incredibly, this is exactly what every mainstream publication today is reporting.

Either it’s a case of some outstanding marketing to convince people that those little green pills really have life-giving powers, or no health reporter read and understood Mr. Greenjean’s study. You’ve probably seen one of the hundreds of headlining stories today:

Too Much Salt Hurting Majority of AmericansWebMD:

Seven out of 10 U.S. adults get 2.3 times the healthy amount of salt. It's putting us in a world of hurt, says Darwin Labarthe, MD, PhD, director of the CDC's division for heart disease and stroke prevention. "This is a very important message," Labarthe tells WebMD. "There is no room for debate any longer that a high level of salt causes stroke and heart disease, and that lowering salt intake will diminish these very serious health consequences."…

Americans eating too much saltScientific American:

Americans are eating far more salt than is healthy, and those for whom it's especially dangerous are consuming twice as much as they should, federal health officials warned yesterday… “It’s important for people to eat less salt…

Don’t Pass the Salt: Most Americans Get Double What They ShouldBloomberg:

Most Americans should cut their salt consumption in half, to less than a teaspoon a day, according to the first report clarifying dietary guidelines published in 2005...

Most adults should restrict salt but don'tAssociated Press:

Seven out of 10 Americans should restrict their salt consumption, but very few of them do, according to a new government study… "I don't think 'alarming' is too strong" a term for describing the results, said Dr. Darwin Labarthe, director of the CDC's Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention… The new CDC report provides valuable new information in quantifying how many at-risk people are getting too much salt, said Dr. Sonia Angell, of New York City's health department. "We're eating way too much," she said…

Too much salt not good for overall healtheFitnessNow.com:

Many Americans ingest over double the amount of sodium than the suggested daily amount… A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that more than 2 out of 3 adults should not have more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. CDC, the federal agency for protecting the wellness and safety of American citizens, stated it will unite forces with other authorities in the Health and Human Services department to recommend major food manufacturers and chain restaurants to lower sodium levels in the food supply.

The study being referred to was a report in today’s issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report by Dr. Labarthe and colleagues at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the CDC. It states that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults should consume no more than 2,300 mg sodium/day and that all middle-age and older-age adults, all blacks and everyone with elevated blood pressure should eat a low-salt diet of less than 1,500 mg/day. Then:

To estimate the proportion of the adult population for whom the lower sodium recommendation is applicable, CDC analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for the period 1999-2006. The results indicated that, in 2005-2006, the lower sodium recommendation was applicable to 69.2% of U.S. adults

That's it. No clinical research, not even an epidemiological observation finding a link between salt and health or premature death.

“Recent examples of public health strategies to reduce sodium consumption include a New York City campaign to reduce sodium content in restaurant and processed foods,” the CDC report concluded. Yes, the CDC exemplified a public low-salt campaign — covered in-depth here — led by New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

A campaign found to have no scientific merit.

Not only has the soundest science for nearly half a century— including the government’s own findings on examinations reflecting 99 million Americans; more than 17,000 studies published since 1966; and even a recent Cochrane systematic review of the clinical trial evidence — failed to support salt reductions for offering health benefits for the general public, but Cochrane’s reviewers specifically concluded that such interventions are inappropriate for population prevention programs. They could hurt people, raising risks for heart disease and premature death.

The media, however, is reporting that this CDC study illustrates the need for stronger salt restrictive guidelines. New federal dietary guidelines are coming out next year.

This is called advance marketing.

* This is a fictitious example and in no way meant to reflect negatively on the real Mr. Greenjeans, loved by generations of children.

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