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JAMA 100 Years Ago
January 5, 2005


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2005;293(1):100. doi:10.1001/jama.293.1.100-a

The question of the dangers of food preservatives is not yet thoroughly settled. The elaborate tests by Dr. Wiley, it is reported, have left with him an unfavorable impression regarding their effects on the human digestion, but his mind is still open to conviction on the subject. One thing, however, is certain—from an economic point of view, the food resources of the world would be considerably lessened if the use of all preservative chemicals, including common salt, was discontinued. Certain French physicians have recently discussed at some length the effect of salt and the value of dechlorization in certain disorders, and it is claimed, by at least one authority, that the use of salt is generally hurtful to the human system. The amount of the substance that we really require would be obtained through our food without the process of artificial salting, he says, and the taste for salt is not innate but is acquired. It would be impossible to avoid ingesting a certain amount of chlorid of sodium in our food. It is one of the most widely distributed substances in Nature, but it seems going a little to extremes to say that a taste for it is purely an acquired one, and it is easy to conceive that the universal craving for salt, which is shared by man in common with many of the lower animals, indicates a real want, and that at times, at least, salt may be insufficiently supplied by an unseasoned diet. Like everything else, salt is liable to overuse, but this does not mean that it may not be sometimes too little used. We can not dispense with the use of salt, if only for economic reasons, and while it may be harmful in certain disorders, its usefulness to the average individual in health and to the population generally can not be questioned. It would be an interesting calculation how much the world’s progress is due to salt, and how far our present civilization could really exist without this important food preservative.

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