Why is the salt industry so powerful? It has its own PR and lobbying firms to play tobacco industry-style tactics to downplay the dangers of high salt intake, but salt is so cheap. How much money is the industry really making? As I discuss in my video Big Salt: Getting to the Meat of the Matter, it’s not the salt mine barons who’re raking it in—it’s the processed food industry. Indeed, the trillion-dollar processed food industry uses dirt-cheap added salt and sugar to sell us their junk, and, by hooking us on hypersweet and hypersalty foods, our taste buds get so dampened down that natural foods may taste like cardboard. The ripest fruit may not be as sweet as Froot Loops, so we just continue to buy more and more of the processed junk.
There are two other major reasons the food industry adds salt to food. “The other 2 reasons, however, are entirely commercial and for most foods are the real reason the food industry wants the intake of salt to remain high.” If salt is added to meat, it draws in water, so the weight can be increased by about 20 percent. Since meat is often sold by the pound, that’s 20 percent more profit for very little cost.
Salt also makes us thirsty. There’s a reason bars offer free salted peanuts and soda companies own snack food companies. It is not coincidence that Pepsi and Frito-Lay are the same company. Would we shell out nine dollars for a drink at the movies after eating a bucket of unsalted popcorn? Would we supersize our soda if they didn’t salt our fries and Big Mac?
Salt is also added to meat because it solubilizes the muscle proteins into a gel for “optimum” meat texture, which is one of the reasons the meat and fish industries like transglutaminase, the “meat glue” enzyme. Meat glue can help gel the muscle protein without adding salt.
Some of these salt alternatives leave a bitter aftertaste in the meat, but this problem can be managed by adding chemical “bitter blockers…which work by blocking the activation of [our] taste receptor cells and thereby preventing taste nerve simulation”—that is, the information is stopped from ever reaching our brain.
The meat industry acknowledges that its products contribute a significant amount of dietary sodium, “maligning their own image,” but salt is just so cheap that using anything else would cost the industry money. However, if the meat industry is able to resolve this cost issue—if it can make it cost-effective—then, one day, perhaps it could end up (as the meat industry itself said) “saving millions of lives as well as dollars.”
You can rejuvenate your taste buds if you cut down on foods with added salt, sugar, and fat. Check out Changing Our Taste Buds.
Did I say meat glue? If you have never heard of it, see my video Is Meat Glue Safe?.
The meat industry’s reaction to salt reminds me of its response to the classification of processed meat as a known human carcinogen. See Meat Industry Reaction to New Cancer Guidelines and The Palatability of Cancer Prevention.
Isn’t there controversy as to how bad salt really is for you? Decide for yourself with the science:
- High Blood Pressure May Be a Choice
- Sprinkling Doubt: Taking Sodium Skeptics with a Pinch of Salt
- The Evidence That Salt Raises Blood Pressure
- Sodium Skeptics Try to Shake Up the Salt Debate
- Shaking the Salt Habit
- Sodium and Arterial Function: A-salting Our Endothelium
Michael Greger, M.D.
PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:
- 2012: Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death
- 2013: More Than an Apple a Day
- 2014: From Table to Able: Combating Disabling Diseases with Food
- 2015: Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet
- 2016: How Not To Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers