The UK Department of Health announced this week that the salt reduction programme introduced ten years ago is working. The average Brit consumes 1.5g less salt a day. With an average daily intake of 8.1g there is still some way to go to reach the target of 6.0g, but estimates suggest that around 8.500 lives are being saved as a result of this reduction.
Or are they….?
Not everyone agrees that salt is bad for your health in the first place. The generally accepted wisdom is that too much salt increases blood pressure which is largely responsible for many strokes and heart attacks. There is plenty of science to back this up, many can be found here on the CASH (Consensus Action for Salt and Health) website. There are also many voices disputing this in the UK, the USA and around the world.
For example, this article in Scientific American published last year summarises the doubts, saying there is no significant increase in stroke risk for people of normal and high blood pressure and that the link between salt consumption and heart attacks has always been tenuous.
Half-listening to a radio programme featuring Professor Graham MacGregor – chairman of CASH and professor of cardiovascular medicine – I was surprised to hear that salt is a highly controversial substance. The programme was supposed to be about how restaurants and fast-food outlets could do more to reduce salt levels in their products. It turned into a heated debate about the validity of the research linking salt to health problems. Many accusations were thrown which had the familiar ring of the “smoking does/does not cause lung cancer” debates: the salt industry is rich and powerful – the research is not independent; the data has not been interpreted accurately; there is no causal link between salt intake and heart attacks….
For now however most national governments and the World Health Organisation are on the side of Professor MacGregor and salt reduction.
Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net
Population growth and global consumption must be addressed urgently, says the IAP, the body representing the world’s 105 scientific academies. In a rare joint statement signed by all 105 bodies, scientists across the globe call for “urgent and coordinated action” to address “two of the most profound challenges to humanity”.
Population and consumption will be two “elephants in the room” at the forthcoming Rio 20+ summit (June 20th – 22nd). There is little point talking about climate change or environmental protection without first addressing how many people are using up the Earth’s resources and how quickly they are doing so.
And it is so serious that the world’s 105 science academies have got together to call for action on this political hot-potato.
For these are politically sensitive issues. Population control means access to contraception. The Vatican for one is threatening to block moves for free access to reproductive health services. And asking people to consume less and work for longer is not going to be a vote winner. The type of negative reporting which often accompanies calls for reduced consumption can be summarised by the following headline from a site called the Register –
“No babies, no technology, work till you die…”
A more reasonable (if less catchy) statement came from within the Royal Society in London:
“For too long the dual issues of population and consumption have been left off the table due to political and ethical sensitivities,” said Professor Charles Godfrey, Fellow of the Royal Society and Working Group Chair of the IAP, the global network of science academies. “These are issues that affect us all, developed and developing nations alike, and we must take responsibility for them together.”
Let’s hope the politicians are listening.
Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net.
I förra veckan var jag på invigningen av en riktigt besöksvärd fotoutställning som jag vill tipsa om, nämligen ”Sketches of Science”.
Utställningen är en ny fotoutställning som går att besöka under sommaren fram tills nionde september på Nobelmuseet i Stockholm. Den består av femtio fotografier av nobelpristagare. Dessa är alla tagna av fotografen Volker Steger och på bilderna håller nobelpristagarna upp teckningar. Dessa teckningar är inte vilka teckningar som helst, utan deras egna teckningar som de gjort för att beskriva sin prisbelönade upptäckt. I utställningen finns även ett antal originalteckningar samt ljudupptagningar och textbeskrivningarna av nobelpristagarna och deras alster.
Teckningarna och fotografierna lyfter fram personligheten och mänskligheten hos nobelpristagarna och det är fascinerande och roligt att studera deras teckningar, som varierar stort i graden av pedagogik. Bilderna och teckningarna är också i många fall både roliga och minnesvärda. Ett mål för utställningen är att inspirera unga till att satsa på utbildning och forskning, dessutom visar den tydligt att forskare på nobelprisnivå också är vanliga människor (och inte alltid så bra på att teckna).
Researchers have synthesised Olympicene, a new molecule in the shape of the Olympic Rings.
When scientists at the Royal Society in London met to discuss how best to mark the London 2012 Olympic games, Professor Graham Richards had the idea to create an Olympic themed molecule.
Easier said than done. And almost as difficult to take a photo of the molecule once created.
University of Warwick researchers Anish Mistry and David Fox came up with synthesis and went on to take images of the molecule using non-contact atomic force microscopy. At just 1.2nm wide, it has been dubbed “the smallest logo in the world”.
Fascinating chemistry – but is it useful?
Perhaps, but the man behind it all said he hoped its greatest use would be inspire young people to study chemistry.
“”Molecules of this nature could conceivably have commercial use, but my own feeling is that above all we want to excite an interest in chemistry provoked by the link with the Olympics,” said Professor Richards.
Read more and see the pictures at the links below:
Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net.