Monday, 23 July 2012

Salted bread, anyone?

More fair, balanced, and completely un-sensational reporting from the BBC News health desk:

Kate Mendoza, head of health information at WCRF, said: "Stomach cancer is difficult to treat successfully because most cases are not caught until the disease is well-established.

"This places even greater emphasis on making lifestyle choices to prevent the disease occurring in the first place - such as cutting down on salt intake and eating more fruit and vegetables."
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "We already know too much salt can lead to conditions such as heart disease and stroke. That is why we are taking action through the 'Responsibility Deal' to help reduce the salt in people's diets. And we are looking at clearer... labelling on foods as part of our consultation on front-of-pack labelling.

Are more aggressive government measures justified?

Let's have a look at the data (assuming for now that we can trust the stats from Cancer Research UK) ...

Despite the salt content of our foods supposedly rocketing, stomach cancer rates have been falling:

We really don't know what level of salt consumption is best for us (it is certainly dangerous to have too little). But even if a link between excessive salt intake and stomach cancer was firmly established, the chart shows that things are getting better - falling stomach cancer rates cannot provide an excuse for ever-more stringent labelling requirements.

And as with most cancers, we find that stomach cancer mostly strikes older people:

No amount of nannying will make us immortal. We're all going to die, and if it's not from stomach cancer, it will be from something else.

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