Salt your way to health

As it turns out, in my own neck of the woods there is a small woo-factory. I came upon it when I saw an internet add extolling the virtues of salt, as long as it’s expensive salt. The author of the article turns out to be a doctor in my very metropolitan area. There is so much woo here that it may take a few posts to get through it all.

The article is called “Salt Your Way to Health” and is featured on the website for a company that just happens to sell, well, fancy salt. There is a bit of a cage match going on with my internal writer and internal scientist. To properly deconstruct and critique this article would create an unreadably long post. So please indulge me with a little patience as I toe the lines of readability and de-wooification.

Salt and Hypertension

Before firing up the de-wooificator, I’m going to have to tell you a little bit about salt and hypertension. Sodium chloride (salt) is essential to human life. Salt is the primary extracellular electrolyte in the body, and we can’t live without it. Common American table salt also contains trace amounts of added iodine to prevent goiters. That being said, consuming too much salt has health consequences. First, in people with congestive heart failure, too much can make it difficult to breath, and even kill.


When it comes to hypertension, salt consumption has been studied extensively. Most of this information is available for free and is summarized in the JNC VII Report on hypertension, a summary of which can be found here. High blood pressure kills and disables millions of Americans every year, mostly via strokes and heart attacks. It has no symptoms, but is easily treated. It is one of the best-studied human medical problems. Lowering blood pressure has been shown to lower the risks of stroke, heart attack, and other hypertensive-related diseases.

Prevention is usually preferred when appropriate. If we identify patients with pre-hypertension, lifestyle modification can go a long way to preventing or delaying the need for medication. Excellent studies have shown that salt reduction, especially in combination with the DASH diet, can significantly lower blood pressure (N Engl J Med, Vol. 344, No. 1 · January 4, 2001). (The DASH diet is not specifically low-sodium, but emphasizes fresh fruits, low refined carbohydrates, etc.). Some people with hypertension are more sensitive to salt than others, and African Americans in general benefit more from salt reduction than other ethnic groups.

Weight loss also helps lower blood pressure significantly in people who are overweight. Eliminating certain medications, such as NSAIDS (motrin, naproxen, aleve, etc.) and decongestants can help lower blood pressure. Most of these preventative measures eventually fail, perhaps due to an aging cardiovascular system, an inability to lose weight and exercise, genetic predispositions, or other factors.

Unfortunately for the “holistic” folks out there, research has shown that most hypertensive patients will require at least two medications to sufficiently lower blood pressure. Thankfully, most of these medicines are relatively cheap and safe (for instance, hydrochlorothiazide and lisinopril, two very effective medications, are each available from Target and Wal-Mart for $4, or in a combined pill for $4.)

So, we know a lot about hypertension and its connection to salt consumption–it’s an important connection, more so for some patients than others.

So why would a doctor promote salt purchase and use?

This recommendation flies in the face of decades of data and the recommendations of most of their colleagues. Thankfully, I have the writings of the author to work with.

His article is rather long and poorly written, but I’ll try to follow it section by section (the section divisions are his):

Dietary Villain or Foundation of Health?

In his introduction, the author sets up a nice straw man, says that he will review research, and then inserts his own “experiences“:

Government agencies, the American Medical Association, and many dietary groups all recommend a low-salt diet.

A review of the research literature, as well as my own clinical experiences have convinced me that unrefined salt is vital to good health.

The straw man here is the assertion that certain organizations deny that salt is necessary to health. It also asserts that certain “government agencies” and the AMA recommend low-salt diets. I searched the AMA website, including patient education sections. There is no “AMA policy” on salt intake. They recommend speaking with your doctor, and mention the connection between blood pressure and salt intake. They make no generalized recommendation on salt intake. One reason may be because the AMA does not make position statements on treatment issues, as far as I’m aware (I’m not a member).

The CDC also has no specific recommendations on its website regarding a low-salt diet. The Department of Health and Human Services publishes dietary recommendations for Americans (although I’m not sure who reads them), and they recommend a low-salt diet for certain people, and a general limit on sodium consumption to about a teaspoon a day.

There is also a subtle appeal to conspiracy by mentioning “big gubmint” and the AMA. Then there is the nearly-hidden reference to something called “unrefined salt”.

Hypertension and Salt

Let’s see what Dr. B. has to say.
First, most of the section is based on his “personal experience”, not actual data. But let’s let him tell the story:

[M]y experience with promoting a low-salt diet to treat hypertension was not successful. Not only did I find a low-salt diet relatively ineffective at lowering blood pressure, but I also found a low-salt diet made my patients miserable due to the poor taste of their low-salt food.

Many physicians have similar experiences. Low salt diets can be difficult to follow, but actual studies have found them to be effective in many patients, so his “experience” really doesn’t count for all that much when put next to large randomized controlled trials. His experience could reflect his patient population, his own abilities, or other random factors. Also, if he hasn’t kept data on how many patients have tried various interventions, their BP readings, etc, then his opinion means nothing.

It wasn’t until I began to look at my patients in a more holistic manner that I began to research the medical literature about salt. What I found was astounding; there is little data to support low-salt diets being effective at treating hypertension for the vast majority of people. Also, none of the studies looked at the use of unrefined sea salt, which contains many valuable vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and potassium, which are vital to maintaining normal blood pressure.

Wow, he’s right! Well not about the salt-hypertension link—the data for hypertensive patients is quite solid, as discussed above. But “unrefined sea salt” has not been subjected to much study. In fact, there are lots of substances that haven’t been studied—top soil, corn starch, saw dust—because, well, why would you? A study would be simple enough to conduct though, which would be better than “guessing” that it is good for you. Oh, and by the way, I’m not sure why unrefined salt would contain any vitamins at all—minerals, sure, vitamins, probably not.

He goes on to re-assert that ” [s]tudy after study has failed to establish a significant causal relationship between salt intake and hypertension.” He then makes an irrelevant statement that, according to a large government survey (hey, wait, I thought the government was the enemy in this argument—two demerits for inconsistency), “inadequate mineral intake (calcium, potassium and magnesium) is the dietary pattern that is the best predictor of elevated blood pressure in persons at increased risk of cardiovascular disease.” Well, that specifically says nothing about sodium. Two more demerits for non sequitur (Dear Reader, you simply must help me keep track of the demerits).

Salt and Heart Disease

This is where he begins to mix in some truth. The real outcome we care about is death from cardiovascular disease. There are very few studies looking at the effect of low-salt diets on this outcome. Most of the studies looked at blood pressure, and since lowered blood pressure is associated with lower rates of cardiac mortality, an extrapolation was made. It may be a logical extrapolation, but that doesn’t make it true prima facie.

However, since we know that lowering blood pressure is good, most studies focus on how to effectively lower blood pressure. It’s much easier to conduct studies on blood pressure then to do longer studies that wait for people to have heart attacks and die.

He also quotes on study in which the researchers said that, “It is also very hard to keep on a low salt diet.” That is a useful bit of information—if a treatment is too hard to adhere to, it will be less effective in real life. Of course, taking insulin is hard, losing weight is hard, quitting smoking is hard; that does not make them useless.

Next he mentions a study in which patients on low salt diets had an massive increase in rates of heart attack. He doesn’t cite it, I’ve never heard of it, I can’t evaluate the claim. I can say, however, that such a dramatic study would be a frequent topic of discussion among internists and cardiologists–it’s not.

Unrefined Salt and Health?

“We have established that a low-salt diet is not very effective at significantly lowering blood pressure in most people.”

“We” have established no such thing…in fact we have established the opposite in study after study. This probably means that the rest of the paragraph will be built on this false premise (an example of “begging the question”).

He then goes on to assert that low mineral levels are responsible for high blood pressure, and that “unrefined salt” is a good source of these minerals.

Call me crazy, but he made his first good point in the previous section, arguing against making extrapolations—then, he goes on to make a doozy–”if this, then maybe that and the other.” Two more demerits for inconsistency.

I don’t think I can handle more point-by-point refutation. Let’s just finish with some more of his unfounded assertions:

Since refined salt is a toxic substance, there should not be any refined salt in anyone’s diet.

Excuse me? It is? When did that happen?

However, there is a great difference between refined and unrefined salt. I recommend only the use of unrefined salt in one’s diet. This will supply the body with over 80 minerals that are useful for maintaining the normal functioning of the body. My experience has shown that the use of unrefined sea salt has not resulted in elevated blood pressure in my patients. The addition of small amounts of unrefined salt to food or cooking will not adversely affect blood pressure or other health parameters in someone with normal kidney function.

Enough with the “in my experience”! Prove, don’t assert!

there is considerable research indicating that unrefined salt can be an important part of a healthy diet

There is? I don’t know. He doesn’t cite any.

Now he makes the second good point of the article: there are many types of patients who do need to avoid salt. This is true, but if all the rest that he has written is true, including a connection between low-salt diet and heart attacks, how can this be true? One demerit for internal contradiction.

His summary section is just that–a summary of the above. I suggest reading it yourself if you so choose.

Take home points—follow the money

This article is not science. It makes unfounded assertions, reads the literature poorly, and contradicts itself in many places. It does, however, give links to purchase “unrefined sea salt”. You can get five pounds for $99.00 ($44.00 if you join now!). The same amount of table salt is about $5.00 at your local market. They also link to the woo-meister’s website, which also sells lots of stuff.

This is my first encounter with salt-woo, and hopefully my last. However, this guy’s office is down the street from me, and some of his patients have begun showing up at my door. I guess we’ll just have to stay tuned.

Comments

  1. #1 N.B.
    April 7, 2008

    Way to make this particular woo-meister look “salty,” PalMD. Great post, great information for the laymen in the audience about the connection between sodium intake and hypertension.

    Alties seem to have chosen HTN as a favorite disease to pick at–it’s easy to see why. It has no real symptoms to speak of and dietary/lifestyle modifications ARE effective in reducing the impact of the disease. It always baffles me that people wouldn’t be convinced of the value of anti-hypertensive drugs; unlike many other medications, the patient can take his or her own blood pressure, chart the results, and SEE them in a very real sense!

  2. #2 Johnny Vector
    April 7, 2008

    Sea salt, sea salt sea salt!

    I’m curious where all the sea salt proponents think the other salt comes from. I’m thinking that would be from evaporation of ancient seas. Wait, that means all salt is sea salt! Do the salt producers really go to great lengths to separate out all the traces of other minerals in mined salt? Hmmm…

  3. #3 pec
    April 7, 2008

    “There are very few studies looking at the effect of low-salt diets on this outcome. Most of the studies looked at blood pressure, and since lowered blood pressure is associated with lower rates of cardiac mortality,”

    The guy’s logic may be pretty lax, but yours isn’t much better. We have no convincing evidence that blood pressure increases resulting from salt intake contribute substantially to heart disease or stroke. You, and the medical profession in general, are taking a giant illogical leap.

    High salt intake may raise blood pressure in some groups, but it does not necessarily lead to chronic or dangerous hypertension. And chronic hypertension might be an effect, rather than cause, in many cases. We don’t really know.

    We do know that the major causes of artery disease leading to heart attacks and strokes are cigarette smoking and type 2 diabetes. So we do not have any clear connection between a high salt diet and artery disease. And you have admitted that.

    The low-salt craze has not helped, as far as I know. It’s similar to the low-cholesterol craze and the low-fat craze. Americans have been misled by these crazes, all because of logical errors on the part of medical professionals.

    The major causes of artery disease are, as we know, lack of physical exercise, obesity, cigarette smoking, and refined carbohydrates.

    High blood pressure can occur as a result of hardened and restricted arteries. So don’t leap to the conclusion that lowering blood pressure with drugs and low-salt diets is going to help your patients avoid artery disease. It is not scientific to base your opinions on giant evidence-free leaps.

  4. #4 PalMD
    April 7, 2008

    pec, before the other commenters tear your “arguments” to shreds, let me remind you that you are a friggin idiot—you have no idea what you are talking about. You mention cigs and DM, but forget to mention hypertension, and you obviously read NONE of the references. Until you read AND UNDERSTAND, maybe you should step away from the keyboard.

  5. #5 natural cynic
    April 7, 2008

    This will supply the body with over 80 minerals that are useful for maintaining the normal functioning of the body

    80 minerals?!?! Does this include a few trans-uranic ones? It would have to, ‘cuz there ain’t that many.

  6. #6 pec
    April 7, 2008

    “forget to mention hypertension”

    I am not bothered by your insults. It just shows you have no logical answers.

    I mentioned hypertension, you just failed to read my comment. I said hypertension might be an effect, rather than, or in addition to, a cause of artery disease. So we really do not know if hypertension is a major factor.

    MDs in general — especially if they have never done research — seem to have a problem understanding that correlation is different from causation.

  7. #7 PalMD
    April 7, 2008

    pec, why are you willing to admit that cigs and diabetes are causative, but not hypertension? It’s rather arbitrary of you, and counter to the evidence.

    That’s why i think you’re a fucktard.

  8. #8 pec
    April 7, 2008

    Sorry to see you getting so flustered. I said — and will repeat it, and maybe this time you will understand – “hypertension might be an effect, rather than, or in addition to, a cause of artery disease.”

    I did not go beyond the evidence and claim that hypertension cannot be a cause. Unlike you, I care about logic and evidence.

  9. #9 PalMD
    April 7, 2008

    Wrong again…hypertension is a major cause of CAD. You continue to prove your fuckwititude.

  10. #10 Anonymous
    April 7, 2008

    “lowered blood pressure is associated with lower rates of cardiac mortality”

    Yes, as I explained, a correlation. It does not imply causation.

    Sorry if I’m confusing you, I realize your understanding of science is very limited.

  11. #11 N.B.
    April 7, 2008

    I think pec needs to read up on the Framingham heart studies.

  12. #12 Brian X
    April 8, 2008

    Salt woo gets even weirder if you google “sodium hydroxate” — a term evidently invented by someone who knows absolutely nothing about chemistry.

  13. #13 Susan
    April 8, 2008

    I notice that the point is often made about refined vs unrefined salt. I wonder if the good doctor is getting salt and sugar mixed up. I know that refined sugar is much less healthy than natural sugars that occur in fruits for example. I don’t remember there being a similar arguement for salt though.

  14. #14 pec
    April 8, 2008

    Yes, high blood pressure can predict heart attacks or strokes. That does not mean it is a cause.

    No one here seems able to comprehend this — if you find an association between two things you cannot be sure which causes the other. And some other variable might cause both.

    For example, when arteries become narrowed, that might cause blood pressure to increase. The direction of causality might be the opposite of what you assumed.

  15. #15 Will TS
    April 8, 2008

    Does unrefined sea salt really come from the sea? I get the image of people with tiny sieves dipping it out of the ocean.

    If you’ve ever flown into the San Francisco airport, you probably saw the evaporation ponds that surround the southern part of San Francisco Bay. The impoundments produce high priced gourmet sea salt evaporated from the smelly industrial/urban runoff from the south bay. From the air you can see the bright colors of the halophillic bacteria that thrive in the warm, hypoxic waters. In bay area health food shops you can buy local ‘sea’ salt that comes in a variety of colors: yellow, orange, red, brown.

    Is this the stuff I’m supposed to eat to cure my high blood pressure?

    Mmmm, thorium.

  16. #16 Egaeus
    April 8, 2008

    I hate to do this, but I might just have to somewhat defend pec. I read through the JNC 7 report, and it had no real information on pec’s main point, which is that there is no causative relationship established between salt intake and hypertension beyond that of the expected change due to osmotic pressure, which is reflected in the expected reduction of SBP by 2-8 mmHg. I would hypothesize that the variation is probably due to the pre-restriction intake of sodium.

    But does salt cause heart disease? It can exacerbate it by increasing the strain on an already overloaded heart, but from what I know, and I am not a doctor, there is no evidence that shows that salt causes either reduced arterial elasticity, or obstruction.

    The correlation between sodium intake and heart disease doesn’t prove anything. This is a classic example of correlation not equalling causation. Processed and fast food, the biggest sodium offenders, also tend to be loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol. Could these not also be the cause of the artery disease, and the salt just be a relatively innocent bystander?

    I am not saying that there is no place for a low-sodium diet, I’m just saying that I’ve yet to see any evidence for one in general.

  17. #17 PalMD
    April 8, 2008

    http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/extract/298/12/1439

    Once again, I urge you to follow the links, and read the citations contained in the refs.

  18. #18 Egaeus
    April 8, 2008

    Unfortunately, I am not a member of the AMA, so I don’t have access to that article. I did want to read it given the alarmist wording of the headline, but it wasn’t $15 of want, especially since I’d need to pay for the references, ad infinitum….

  19. #19 PalMD
    April 8, 2008

    I’ll try to grab it for you.

    Actually, that’s not kosher. You can either believe me, go to the library, or not.

  20. #20 Egaeus
    April 8, 2008

    How about a plausible method by which salt causes ateriosclerosis? Surely that’s something that I can research on the internet without subscribing to anything or braving the FSU campus.

  21. #21 PalMD
    April 8, 2008

    Hey, science and the study of it is hard. Suck it up.

  22. #22 Egaeus
    April 8, 2008

    Yeah, but is science *really* worth going onto a campus with nearly 40,000 students 3 weeks before the semester ends? I didn’t think so!

    But seriously, I think we’ve encountered a fundamental problem of discussing science on the internet. While things like Wikipedia are great as a first resource for general information, once you get into the details, you’re screwed unless you have access to journal articles. So you either have to pay not-insignificant amounts of money for a subscription, or rely on others to interpret it for you. Neither is satisfactory in my opinion. The latter option is particularly bad when those others are journalists.

  23. #23 PalMD
    April 8, 2008

    Such is life. When you hire a car mechanic or an architect, you go on reputation, etc, but you don’t try to learn their entire fields…you hire them for their expertise so that you don’t have to get another degree each time you need professional services.

    So it is with medicine. Don’t like it? Go to med school, but I warn you, it’s quite difficult.

  24. #24 Egaeus
    April 8, 2008

    I have thought of that. I wasn’t that interested in medicine when I was younger, but biology and medicine are more appealing these days.

    I don’t think med school would be any more difficult than engineering school. Different? Most definitely. Harder? I doubt it. I managed to make it all the way to not yet finishing my Master’s thesis with untreated ADD, so I could probably succeed (if not excel) in most any scientific field with it now seemingly under control. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you can actually focus on what you’re doing.

    Could I get in? I doubt that too. I made it into the graduate EE program because of my great test scores, not a great GPA. Something about that whole inability to concentrate makes a stellar GPA difficult to come by, no matter what my IQ is. That is a good question though. If I was to apply to med school with a mediocre GPA and kick-ass MCAT scores, and an explanation about the undiagnosed ADD, do you think they’d believe in their own field enough to let me in? That’s more rhetorical than anything.

    But besides, would I really want to spend another 7+ years to start my career over? I’d be pushing 40. No, I think I’ll stick with designing radio systems for the time being.

  25. #25 PalMD
    April 8, 2008

    And that’s the point…If I needed you for your expertise, I would look at your reputation, certification, etc, but I wouldn’t try to learn your field…it would be impossible.

  26. #26 Egaeus
    April 9, 2008

    True, but if I performed a study that tested whether talking nicely to the photolithograpy equipment improved microprocessor yield, then you’d know that it was bogus, whether or not you understood the microprocessor manufacturing process.

    Similarly, though less ludicrous, I can look at a study that feeds two groups of people the same diet varying only the salt, and measuring a ~4 mmHg decrease in blood pressure in the low salt group, and see that you’ve done nothing but demonstrate the principle of osmosis. That was actually a study quoted on the Center for Science in the Public Interest website in their section decrying salt.

    I’ve also seen a study in the news in the last few months that was reported to show a significant increase in mortality among high-risk patients over a 10-year period for those who maintained a high salt intake. That raises questions that weren’t answered in the news article, such as: How did the diets compare otherwise? It’s reasonable to assume that someone who reduces their salt intake because of blood pressure is going to make other dietary changes as well, and vice versa. If other variables were controlled, then by what mechanism does salt increase mortality? What do those results mean for individuals with normal blood pressure?

    These aren’t beyond the reasonable lay-person. I’m not one to go out verifying everything that’s told to me. I accept that carbon dioxide is a “greenhouse gas.” I’ve never tested it. I have enough faith on the majority of scientists that it has been sufficiently tested. I accept that fossil fuels are made of hydrocarbons, and whose byproducts of combustion are primarily carbon dioxide and water. However, I do know enough statistics that I can take those accepted facts, along with data from reliable sources, and establish the correlation of atmospheric CO2 and global temperature increase (the 5-year average temperature has a coefficient of correlation of 0.93). I can then take the fossil fuel consumption data and correlate that with atmospheric CO2 concentration (0.99). I can then safely deduce that given the facts that I’ve been told, and given that the data is accurate and independently determined, that global warming is anthropogenic beyond any reasonable doubt.

    However, what I’ve gotten on the salt issue is the equivalent of an assertion by the media that global warming is happening and that we’re responsible, but I don’t have the basic data, or even the knowledge that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. I’ve just been looking for basic information, and coming up empty-handed, so I hope you can understand my frustration. I’m not one to hold on to bad ideas in the face of evidence, but I’d like to see a prima facie case made first.

  27. #27 pec
    April 9, 2008

    Salt is probably not one of the most important factors in artery disease. For most people, it might not be important at all.

    Maybe medical school is difficult — most scientific or technical subjects are detailed and intricate, and therefore a challenge for the average human brain. But the emphasis for MDs is probably not statistics and research methodology, and that creates some serious problems when they interpret medical research.

    For example, the idea that correlation does not tell you about causality is something you learn in Ph.D. research, but it is not obvious to everyone. After you learn it, it seems to go without saying. You wonder why the whole world insists on making that mistake.

    So as difficult as medical school may be, it does not make you omniscient. No amount of education can do that, there is just too much detailed information to learn, even within one field.

    I think that sometimes engineer types like Egaeus or myself notice holes in logic more easily than the average MD or non-scientist, especially if we have a lot of background in statistics and logic.

    No, we can’t read the subscriber-only research articles, but there is quite a lot of free information we can sort through. I had searched and searched for any convincing link between dietary salt and chronic hypertension and just found lots of controversy. Some of the data came from comparing traditional societies, with no heart disease, to Western societies, ignoring many other differences between the groups.

  28. #28 LanceR
    April 9, 2008

    My apologies to all the sane engineers out there…

    Why do so many of the more rabid deniers turn out to be engineers? What is it about the engineering coursework that gives them the delusion that they understand science better than scientists? Here’s a tip. If the guys who *DO* the science say one thing, and people who *DON’T* do the science say another, then your best bet is to go with the science guys. If my mechanic says that my alternator is going, and my plumber says it’s just a squeaky belt, I’ve got to get my alternator replaced.

    Sheesh. Rant over…

  29. #29 pec
    April 9, 2008

    Well I’m an engineering AND science type; sorry to get you so upset. My hobbies include logical thinking and in having a basic grasp of science and statistics. My work is computer programming, so I can be logical at times, and my education is a Ph.D. in experimental psychology, so I have designed experiments and used statistics.

    If you don’t think I have the right to question the opinion of MDs, then MDs should not have a right to interpret statistics.

  30. #30 PalMD
    April 9, 2008

    There are a lot of important points hidden in here, probably enough for a new post. Hey, there’s an idea! Stay tuned, I promise I’ll be reasonably nice.

  31. #31 Egaeus
    April 9, 2008

    LanceR, I really hope that you’re not talking about me, because I think I’ve asked for nothing unreasonable, and denied nothing. I am skeptical of salt causing arteriosclerosis. This is simply because as a lay-person (compared to scientists), I am exposed to only what is reported in the media, and the resoning that I hear there is very similar to the reasoning behind a low-fat diet. Let me illustrate:

    Fat/Salt is high in calories/sodium. Too many calories/much sodium increases weight/blood pressure. Therefore you should reduce your fat/sodium intake.

    It just seems simplistic, and doesn’t take into account many factors. Is that all there is to it? I doubt it, but that’s what we hear.

    But of course, you can continue your ad hominem attacks, and add nothing to the discussion. I prefer to try and learn something.

  32. #32 LanceR
    April 9, 2008

    It’s called pointing out a pattern. There are an awful lot of engineers at the forefront of the 9/11 troof movement, Cdesign Proponentsists, AGW, and many other denialist movements. At no time did I name any names, or point any fingers.

    “A guilty man flees where none chase”

    Calling someone a name is not an ad hominem attack.

    “You’re wrong, and you’re ugly” is not ad hominem.

    “You’re wrong because you’re ugly” *IS* an ad hominem. See the difference?

    This site is not intended for discussion of salt and its effects on blood pressure/heart disease/whatever. It is intended for the discussion of the tactics deniers use. See the Crank Howto for more information. Of course, whining about ad hominem attacks IS one of those items…

  33. #33 Egaeus
    April 9, 2008

    Saying “you’re wrong and you’re stupid” without attacking the argument is an ad hominem attack. You have to show the argument has no merit to have a case for adding “you fucking idiot” to the end.

  34. #34 LanceR
    April 9, 2008

    Wrong again, schmuck.

    See http://plover.net/~bonds/adhominem.html for a discussion of the ad hominem fallacy fallacy. It may be rude, but it is not ad hominem.

    And again, I made no comment about you, or to you. (Until the schmuck above) Why the sudden defensive response?

  35. #35 Egaeus
    April 9, 2008

    From Wikipedia:

    An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin: “argument to the man”, “argument against the man”) consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking or appealing to a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim. The process of proving or disproving the claim is thereby subverted, and the argumentum ad hominem works to change the subject.

    Did you use the argumentum ad hominem as a formal logicial argument? Not really. Is your post close enough to be called such? Yes. It was simply an insult with no actual argument in response to what I’d say was a reasonable, if perhaps misinformed discussion, at least on my part. I freely admit that I could be completely wrong, but I’d like to know why I’m wrong.

    While your post did not name names, it’s inclusion in this discussion and its location is not a coincidence. It may have just been unfortunate timing. However, while you may have been talking about pec, or may have just been making a random observation, the fact is that your timing is suspect, as is your assertion that you weren’t aiming it at anyone in particular.

    Why the defensiveness? Well, I admit that I am naturally defensive. I’d be a terrible politician. However, I believe that it is reasonable not to like it when it is implied that one is insane or a denialist, especially when such an implication is undemonstrable.

  36. #36 Egaeus
    April 9, 2008

    From Wikipedia:

    An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin: “argument to the man”, “argument against the man”) consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking or appealing to a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim. The process of proving or disproving the claim is thereby subverted, and the argumentum ad hominem works to change the subject.

    Did you use the argumentum ad hominem as a formal logicial argument? Not really. Is your post close enough to be called such? Yes. It was simply an insult with no actual argument in response to what I’d say was a reasonable, if perhaps misinformed discussion, at least on my part. I freely admit that I could be completely wrong, but I’d like to know why I’m wrong.

    While your post did not name names, it’s inclusion in this discussion and its location is not a coincidence. You may have been talking about pec, which I’d leave to him to defend, but the fact is that your timing is suspect, as is your assertion that you weren’t aiming it at anyone in particular.

    Why the defensiveness? Well, I admit that I am naturally defensive. I’d be a terrible politician. However, I believe that it is reasonable not to like it when it is implied that one is insane or a denialist, especially when such an implication is undemonstrable.

  37. #37 Egaeus
    April 9, 2008

    Sorry about the double post. I’m not quite sure how that happened, as the former is an earlier edit of the latter. I must have accidentally clicked Post and didn’t realize it, or get back this page….

  38. #38 Egaeus
    April 9, 2008

    Oh, and for the record, I do plan to head to the Engineering School this weekend (I still have swipe card access and keys), and will hopefully be able to grab a copy of the article in question.

  39. #39 Bill
    April 9, 2008

    So, if I’m going to eat popcorn while watching this entertainment, should I salt it or not?

  40. #40 PalMD
    April 9, 2008

    I love salt, but then I’m a healthy guy. The evidence doesn’t say to much about salt in healthy people.

  41. #41 Egaeus
    April 9, 2008

    I’d say put some finely-ground popcorn salt in the popping oil. Use enough so that it gets a light coating and is well seasoned, but doesn’t taste “salty.”

    Microwave ovens are only good for heating water for tea, and if you disagree, then you’re not a true popcorn eater (I love that fallacy).

    I’m not a big fan of salty snacks myself, though I insist on properly seasoning my food.

  42. #42 Tiffany Bracelets
    November 1, 2009

    So, if I’m going to eat popcorn while watching this entertainment, should I salt it or not?

  43. #43 Ron
    July 2, 2010

    It’s incorrect to say that salt is essential to human life. If that were true, I’d be dead. Whole societies, like the Yanomami, have existed without salt. We need the sodium and the chlorine, but we can get both from food without salt.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.