Jan 12

Along with the announcement that the New York City Health Department is establishing guidelines for the sodium level of foods sold and served within its city limits, was an admission by Mayor Mike Bloomberg that he is a big salt consumer himself.

Reportedly Mayor Bloomberg loves hot dogs and popcorn, eats peanut butter and bacon sandwiches, and adds extra salt to his pizza and saltine crackers. The reason the Mayor seems to have an insatiable appetite for all things salty is because sodium is an addictive substance, according to nutrition experts.

“The more salt you eat, the more salt you want. It’s a vicious cycle,” according to Tammy Lakatos Shames, a New York registered dietitian. “Salt is an acquired taste. You aren’t born craving the taste of salt, but you build up a tolerance to it over time” adds Lyssie Lakatos, Tammy’s dietitian twin sister.

The Lakatos sisters (a/k/a The Nutrition Twins) put great emphasis on sodium intake in their nutritional counseling practice because they believe it is one of the biggest health risks in America today.

“People think if they don’t have high blood pressure they don’t have to worry about salt, but that’s not true,” Lyssie says. In the book that the Lakatos sisters co-authored, called “The Secret to Skinny: How Salt Makes You Fat,” the Nutrition Twins list a number of serious maladies that researchers have linked to excessive sodium intake.

Impaired brain function, kidney damage, stomach cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and strokes can all be caused by sodium toxicity, researchers say. But the biggest health consequence for excessive salt intake for Americans, according to the Nutrition Twins, is obesity. “Salt makes you fat,” both sisters state emphatically.

In their “Secret to Skinny” book, the Lakatos sisters explain how salt toxicity produces more fat in the body, makes the fat cells more dense, increases food cravings, and decreases the body’s ability to burn fat and repair muscle. This is information that the Nutrition Twins think is vital to the 70 million Americans who are struggling with obesity.

“We definitely think it’s a step in the right direction,” Tammy Lakatos says about New York’s sodium guidelines. “Hopefully this will lead to more awareness about the dangers of salt,” she says.

New York’s sodium guidelines are just the latest in regulatory efforts to motivate healthy eating in the Big Apple. In 2008 New York became the first U.S. city to require restaurants to display calorie counts of foods in menus, on menu boards, and on display case labels. Prior to that, in 2006 New York became the first U.S. city to ban trans fats from all foods and ingredients served in New York City restaurants.

With the latest campaign against high sodium foods, Bloomberg is once again pointing New Yorkers towards good health, and setting the pace for other U.S. city government leaders as well. Hopefully Bloomberg will be pointing his own eating habits in a low-sodium direction too.

Although it’s not clear what, if anything, Mayor Bloomberg will be doing to reduce his own sodium intake, Tammy and Lyssie suggest that he is probably addicted to the taste of salt. If that is the case, going cold turkey is the best way that he could break that addiction.

“Taste buds turn over in 21 days or less,” Tammy says. That’s why, in their book, the Nutrition Twins recommend a 21-day cold turkey salt detox. “After 21 days, your taste buds will adjust, and then when you add salt back into your diet, a little bit will taste like a lot,” Lyssie says.

The Nutrition Twins are hoping that Mayor Bloomberg will use the copy of “Secret to Skinny” that they are sending him to break any addiction he may have to toxically salty foods. But until Bloomberg’s sodium detox is complete, the Lakatos sisters have one big caution for him and every American.

“Read labels!” both Nutrition Twins say emphatically. “Nearly 80% of the sodium intake of the average American is from processed foods, not from what we’re shaking onto our plate,” Lyssie says. “We all need to know more about what how much salt we’re eating and what that sodium is doing to our bodies,” Tammy adds.

Tammy Lakatos Shames and Lyssie Lakatos are registered dietitians and personal trainers with a private practice in New York. They are co-authors of the book, “The Secret to Skinny: How Salt Makes you Fat and the 4-Week Plan to Drop a Size and Get Healthier With Simple Low Sodium Swaps,” and are featured regularly in the media as nutrition and fitness experts.

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