Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mayor Bloomberg: The Gun-Toting Nanny

By Diana Hsieh

You might be surprised to learn that New York City doesn't have a mayor. Yet it's true! New York City is governed by an armed nanny, Michael Bloomberg. He is determined to coerce adults into his vision of healthy living, without regard to their rights or the relevant science. His latest proposal concerns salt. The New York Times reports:

First New York City required restaurants to cut out trans fat. Then it made restaurant chains post calorie counts on their menus. Now it wants to protect people from another health scourge: salt.

On Monday, the Bloomberg administration plans to unveil a broad new health initiative aimed at encouraging food manufacturers and restaurant chains across the country to curtail the amount of salt in their products.

...

The city's campaign against salt resembles its push to cut trans fat from restaurant foods, which began with a call for voluntary compliance. When that did not work, the city passed a law to force restaurants to eliminate trans fat.

But city officials said it would be difficult to legislate sodium reduction.

"There's not an easy regulatory fix," said Geoffrey Cowley, an associate health commissioner. "You would have to micromanage so many targets for so many different products."
Oh, don't worry about those pesky details! Nanny Bloomberg will do his very best to mandate salt reduction at the point of a gun when his "voluntary" scheme fails.

Back in April, John Tierney wrote an excellent op-ed for the New York Times about this proposal, likening it to an ill-founded experiment using the whole city as unwitting subjects. That's clearly immoral, particularly given that the case against salt -- not just for healthy people but even for people with heart disease -- is weak at best. Tierney writes:
First, a reduced-salt diet doesn't lower everyone's blood pressure. Some individuals' blood pressure can actually rise in response to less salt, and most people aren't affected much either way. The more notable drop in blood pressure tends to occur in some -- but by no means all -- people with hypertension, a condition that affects more than a quarter of American adults.

Second, even though lower blood pressure correlates with less heart disease, scientists haven't demonstrated that eating less salt leads to better health and longer life. The results from observational studies have too often been inconclusive and contradictory. After reviewing the literature for the Cochrane Collaboration in 2003, researchers from Copenhagen University concluded that "there is little evidence for long-term benefit from reducing salt intake."
Even worse, salt-reduction might kill people with heart disease:
In the past year, researchers led by Salvatore Paterna of the University of Palermo have reported one of the most rigorous experiments so far: a randomized clinical trial of heart patients who were put on different diets. Those on a low-sodium diet were more likely to be rehospitalized and to die, results that prompted the researchers to ask, "Is sodium an old enemy or a new friend?"
Moreover, salt might be the only source of iodine for many people. Of course, iodized salt isn't a great source of iodine, and much salt isn't iodized. Nonetheless, further salt reduction would likely only exacerbate the all-too-common iodine deficiency in America today. Such iodine deficiency can be a source of major health problems -- such as hypothyroidism, retardation in children, goiter, and possibly breast disease. Moreover -- surprise, surprise! -- hypothyroidism dramatically increases risk of heart disease -- the very condition that the Nanny of NYC seeks to reduce by limiting salt.

No, I won't call that an unintended consequence. Like the politicians determined to worsen the mortgage crisis with their good intentions, Nanny Statists like Bloomberg ought to know better. They deserve to be morally condemned in the strongest possible terms for the suffering and death they cause by their negligent exercise of force.

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