John Stossel

 "I can't imagine how they came up with that number. I mean, there isn't a single bit of evidence that suggests 2,400 milligrams is better than 2,100 or 3,700," said Dr. Michael Alderman, who headed the American Society of Hypertension, America's biggest organization of specialists in high blood pressure. He says some people should cut back on salt, but for most people, it's pointless. Some studies have found that those who ate the least salt were four times more likely to have heart attacks.

 I couldn't read Cutler's mind, so I don't know that he pushed his anti-salt campaign because he wanted to build himself a little empire. But consider the choices of the bureaucrat: If he finds that you're probably eating "more than 20 times the salt your body needs," his findings may be on "Good Morning America," and he's important.

 If he finds no threat, he is just another bureaucrat.

 Scientific communication is very stilted, as if to convey impartiality. Scientists are happy to have non-scientists view them as uniquely unbiased, and reporters fall into the trap of believing them. But supposedly "dispassionate" scientists are as passionate about their ideas as any entrepreneur. They have all sorts of reasons to lose perspective and get carried away with hope and excitement. If they discover something, they may be famous. If they don't, they may have spent years in some windowless laboratory for little good. So if they can convince themselves their theory is right, they are eager for the public to hear about it.

 When there's a broad scientific consensus behind a theory, it's quite likely -- though still not certain -- to be right. But some theories, including some backed by the government, deserve to be taken only with a grain of salt.

 Give Me a Break.


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate