Assaulted By Experiments

Bloomberg is going to make you eat less salt whether you like it or not. He plans to pressure the food industry and restaurants to cut salt intake by half over the next decade.

John Tierney is annoyed that Bloomberg is implementing this plan without the benefits of any scientific evidence that a reduction salt intake actually leads to better health. Bloomberg is implementing a major study without the benefits of consent forms, IRB committees, control groups, and a committee of scientists overlooking this massive experiment.

Bloomberg is on a roll, because so far his public health experiments have worked. When he outlawed smoking in bars and restaurants in NYC, most people thought it was insane. Nobody would go to bar anymore. People would find ways around the laws. Sidewalks would be filled with smokers. But it didn't take long for people to get used to it. People still went to bars. Many people stopped smoking. And your clothes didn't smell like an ashtray at the end of an evening.

Tierney doesn't like this plan, because Bloomberg has jumped over the scientists. He's implementing a plan that hasn't gotten the gold star from experts. Truthfully, politicians do it all the time. They put computes in classrooms even though there is no evidence that they improve student performance. They build highways without studying what the impact will be on local communities. They send troops to Iraq without actually checking if there are WMD. That is what public policy is. It's a grand experiment.

9 thoughts on “Assaulted By Experiments

  1. Bloomberg reminds me of the old school rich people. Kind of conservative in many ways, very pro-business, very entitled, but genuinely seeing that his money/power can make a difference. He’s what lots of Republicans wish Republicans could be, with less of the culture wars crap.
    Not saying I’d vote for him necessarily, if I were still living in NYC, but I’d think about it and weigh all the pros and cons.

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  2. I am going to consider voting for Bloomberg, mostly because he has a vision for public schools and even though it might not be the best vision, I would hate to see all the schools have to abandon everything they’re been working on and start at square one with someone else’s imperfect vision.
    Even though I know it’s not the point of the post, I keep hearing the wrong thing about computers in schools. It doesn’t matter whether computers improve student performance in other subjects, it matters that our kids are computer literate beyond their myspace pages. Kids who enter college with no knowledge of word processing, spreadsheets, or how to conduct good research using the internet will not get a degree.

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  3. John Tierney is annoyed that Bloomberg is implementing this plan without the benefits of any scientific evidence that a reduction salt intake actually leads to better health.

    Really? Less than 30 seconds searching leads to Long term effects of dietary sodium reduction on cardiovascular disease outcomes: observational follow-up of the trials of hypertension prevention (TOHP) which has the conclusion “Sodium reduction, previously shown to lower blood pressure, may also reduce long term risk of cardiovascular events.” I suppose you could quibble about that “may also reduce” or, if you read the report, about the statistical results, but that seems a long way from claiming no scientific evidence, particularly if you then start following the references and citations.

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  4. Knowing nothing about the issue, I would just say that you need a good meta-study before claiming that there is any evidence (or, more precisely, before claiming there is “any evidence worth considering when devising policy”)

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  5. I got the Apartment Therapy book a week ago and there was an NYC guy in there who kept his dress shirts in his fridge since he wasn’t using it, although he did keep ice cream in the freezer section.
    That lifestyle seems pretty deviant to me, as well as being ungodly expensive. Breakfast and lunch are inexpensive to make yourself–it’s so easy to get them right. Anybody who eats every meal from a restaurant or street cart is going to die young or broke, at least one of the two.

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  6. I’ve heard that in parts of NYC, some one-bedroom apartments can rent for more than $1,000 a month. At that price, you’re going to go broke anyway.

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  7. I cook most of our dinners, and we bake our own bread due to food allergies. Over time, if you don’t eat an overly salty diet, your taste buds adapt. I can now taste how salty commercial food is. I once tried a recipe from an older cookbook, which relied on what I’d call convenience cooking, i.e., using canned soups as a basis for a meal. It was amazingly salty.
    I wouldn’t approve of the government trying to regulate my personal salt consumption (or fat, trans-fats, whatever.) Setting limits on the level of salt available in goods for sale from restaurants? Fine. If people want more, they can, and will, use the salt shaker.
    I’d argue that actions on this front would correct decades in which government sat by while food companies increased the salt, fats, and sweeteners in prepared food products. Rather than try to institute programs to nag us all about our weight and fitness, or to tax “junk food,” I’d like to see limits on portion sizes. Many restaurants offer much too much food at one sitting. 22 oz “big gulp” sodas make it easy to consume too much. If a customer wants to drink a huge amount of soda, he can buy 3 8-oz sodas. He can still consume just as much, if he chooses. It would probably help waistlines, though, if the default option weren’t much too much food.

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