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Take it with a grain of salt

May 31st, 2007 at 06:21 pm

Today I visited the University library at which I have alumna borrowing priveleges. There was a display of rare books, including an 1822 biography of Napoleon and a first edition of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary. He was a character who came up with his own opinionated definitions. The book was open at the one which reads: "stockjobber (ie broker) a low wretch who makes his living buying and selling shares." Given the unregulated market of his day, he was likely correct.

I took out a book on Salt, Health and Diet by a couple of medical professors. I'm finding some fascinating information about the history of salt and the role it played in the economy, as well as the effect on the body. Some snippets:

- Salt is not necessary in the diet. Many primitive tribes don't use it.

- The top cause of death in the 19th Century was apoplexy, or stroke, caused by high blood pressure from eating so much salt preserved food.

- Salt played a role in the South losing the Civil War. They didn't have enough to preserve the meat the troops ate, so the Confederate soldiers were starving and couldn't fight well.

- Manufacturers add more salt, and MSG, to cheap meats like sausages and luncheon meats because it is largely mechanically recovered ground meat and fat, and doesn't have much flavor. Another reason is that salt can absorb more water so they can make it more cheaply.

- Salt makes you thirsty so that is why bars serves salty snacks and fast food giants serve soft drinks. Many manufacturers of salty snacks also own soft drink concerns.

- Cutting down on salt in your diet helps you lose weight. Part of it is loss of body fluid, and also because you are cutting out high calorie foods like chips.

The other book I borrowed was Planet India: How the Fastest Growing Democracy Is Transforming America and the World by Mira Kamdar. Only flicked thru this, but it deals with the effects of jobs offshore on Americans, the rise of the Indian middle classes and the impact of technology on their economy, and the consequences on the poor Indian villages and the landless who flock to the cities for work. Having seen this at first hand myself, I look forward to reading what an Indian economist has to say about it.

Heh, I'm getting the equivalent of another degree - for free. Oh, and found 40 cents coming back across campus. Think I'll start a running tally in the side bar.

4 Responses to “Take it with a grain of salt”

  1. veronak Says:

    For some reason I tought sanitation in the mid to early (19th to 20th century) the top cause of death was sanitation, and then later moved on to heart disease which is the leading cause of death and stroke being the third at least that is in most of my textbooks; oops this was the trend in U.S health not worldwide or other countries which makes a difference.I forgot. Salt is dangerous I totally agree, just a few weeks back I pratically ate so much ham (high in sodium) that my BP went up (this was also coupled with stress at work) Right now I am definately trying to cut it out

    Interesting post

  2. JanH Says:

    I believe it. We didn't use salt much growing up nor did we eat out much. When I was pregnant with my first child, Hubby was working a job where he was gone seven days a week, twelve hours a day. A friend and I ate out a lot and boy did I gain weight--from the saltier foods. With the second one, I ate at home with my little family. I was much healthier. Now, of course, they tell you more about these things. I crave salty foods sometimes. My DS told me he was told that the brain needs some salt to work properly. I wondered if my brain chemistry sometimes needs more salt, but I have never asked my doctors if that is part of my disorders. Would be an interesting question. Sometimes if I eat too much of it, my head feels buzzy. Interesting post!

  3. laceshawl Says:

    Amber, thanx for the info. Did they get the stats from the death certificates written at the time? And how did they note the deaths from poor sanitation - add up cases of typhoid, cholera etc? I'd like to know more about this - the 19th century is my favorite literary and historical period. Can you recommend some good texts on the subject? Thanx

  4. veronak Says:

    there were a number of sources, one textbook that we used was the "Nation's Health" by Estes

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