Ohio Cardiac Surgeon Challenges COSTCO
Ohio cardiac surgeon Surender R. Neravetla has accused Costco, the fifth largest retailer in the US and the seventh largest in the world, of deliberately putting profit over people by publishing distorted facts about salt in its recent "Costco Connection." The magazine, which is sent free to members, publishes articles about business, health and social issues that often tie-in to the corporation or relate to products that Costco sells:
Costco promotes salt and products that are laden with salt. Salt is not good for you. In fact, it can kill you.
Three out of every four people walking into Costco need to cut back on salt. Publishing an article stating that "eating too little salt may be more harmful than too much" isn't just irresponsible, it's dangerous. Hundreds of studies over the last three decades have substantiated the damage that eating too much salt can do. Even skeptics within the science community who don't go along with the idea that everyone should reduce their salt intake agree that salt reduction is advisable for individuals over the age of 60, as well as those with high blood pressure, heart disease and heart failure, diabetes, obesity and people of African American descent. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other experts, at least 3/4 of US adults fall into at least one of those categories.
The article "Health Advice Takes a Pinch of Salt" by writer and herbalist Bruce Burnett denies all the above research, stating that salt is actually good for you and that the connection of salt to hypertension and high blood pressure "has little foundation in science." To back up his claims, he points to a single scientific paper (ignoring the consensus of scientific panels around the world), and quotes from an article that misrepresents the conclusions about salt drawn from Intersalt, a massive study involving over 10,000 people from more than 30 countries.
"The statement that the Intersalt study 'found no relationship between sodium intake and the rate of hypertension' could not be further from the truth," says Dr. Surender R. Neravetla, Director of Cardiac Surgery at Springfield Regional Medical Center and author of a new book entitled Salt Kills (Health Now Books, 2012). "Both the original 1988 Intersalt study and the 1997 review by consensus panels confirm that the more salt people add to their food the higher their blood pressure." Indeed, the "Costco Connection" writer quoted an article appearing in Scientific American, which in turn quoted a physician known to have worked as a salt industry consultant and whose opinion has been strongly refuted by the scientific community at large.
High blood pressure is not just one of those inevitable annoyances associated with getting old. It's a potentially lethal condition that contributes to strokes, heart disease and heart failure, with certain populations—in this country Black Americans—more at risk than others. Salt reduction guidelines recommended by scientific panels across the globe (and not just by US government entities as suggested in the "Costco Connection" article) can help people avoid or reduce high blood pressure. Research has shown that salt also causes or aggravates other health challenges, including asthma, stomach cancer, osteoporosis, obesity and even dementia.
A Center for Disease Control (CDC) study released in September 2012 shows that children are particularly susceptible to salt. Add salt to a baby's diet and you risk compromising their delicate systems and potentially double or triple their risk for hypertension.
The "Costco Connection" article also highlighted a naturopath's quote that "without salt, we could not exist." Bodies need salt, true enough, but we already obtain all the salt we need through natural foods like fruits and vegetables. Adding extra salt is where we get into trouble. In Salt Kills Dr. Neravetla explains that the salt concentration inside our red blood cells and the plasma that surrounds them has to be exactly the same. If there are too many electrolytes—or salt—in one or the other, the all-important cells end up either bursting or shriveling. Either way, they die.
This irreversible, incapacitating and often fatal damage is why Dr. Neravetla is so incensed about the "Costco Connection" article. "Come on, Costco. Take the high road and use your enormous reach to educate your nearly 55 million customers about the dangers of salt. Lead the way by offering low-salt versions of many of the foods you sell; you can still make a substantial profit," he says. "So many organizations all over the world are trying to decrease salt-related deaths and dysfunctions."
Costco is in a position to impact the nation's health for better or worse. The mega-store should opt to help people live longer, healthier lives rather than the reverse.
For more information about Salt Kills by Surender R. Neravetla, MD, FACS with Shantanu R. Neravetla, MD, visit saltkills.com.