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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

I'll pass on those salty Brussels sprouts, though

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PROBABLY the only thing that almost everyone agrees on about salt is that it tastes good. And pretty well everyone agrees if something tastes good, then it has to be bad for you -- if you want to live forever, you should eat nothing but Brussels sprouts. They taste terrible, but like most foods that taste terribly bad, they are supposed to be good for you. Why is this so? Well, no one ever said God had to be a nice guy.

I continue to pass on the Brussels sprouts -- who wants to live forever anyway, especially on those terms? -- but I continue to eat more salt than is probably good for me just because it tastes so good on almost anything.

Scientists and nutritional researchers take an almost devilish delight in being the bearers of God's bad news. It's a simple enough equation: tastes good = bad for you; tastes bad = good for you. It's positively mathematical in its simplicity and its absolutely intolerable perfection.

But Hark! Some heretics appear. A new Canadian study says salty things may in fact be OK, so shake away, you salty dogs. Eating salt has been traditionally associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease but -- be still, my beating heart -- recent research suggests one would have to eat it almost by the teaspoonful to actually approach that perilous point. Most Canadians don't eat enough salt to run the risk of damage.

Two studies of 28,880 people at risk of cardiovascular disease showed a normal consumption of salt did no harm and reducing that level of consumption did little good.

So, sometimes God -- or his bedevilled messengers in the scientific community -- does have good news. In fact, as the media's obsession with medical news intensifies year after year, we are finally starting to learn this is all more theatrical than theological -- it is science playing to the gods, not He Himself, that is the author of many of our misapprehensions.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 26, 2011 J2

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