Saturday, June 18, 2011

Industry spin: salt edition

A friend showed me an article the other day from the health section of a local paper, "Iodized salt has health benefits, but studies suggest looming crisis." She was understandably concerned:
[A]n alarming new medical study shows 70 percent of teenage girls in Great Britain are iodine deficient, and as many as 100,000 British babies are born every year with brain damage that could have been prevented if their mothers used iodized salt.

In light of this and other studies, the Salt Institute has expressed concern that sodium-restricted diets may reduce consumption of iodized table salt, increasing the risk of an entirely preventable major health problem -- iodine deficiency. The benefits of iodized salt are sometimes missed because it is one of the most overlooked brain foods ever developed.

"It may be a stretch to say iodized table salt put man on the moon, but it has helped provide the intellectual development needed for so many of our technological breakthroughs," says Mort Satin, vice president of science and research at the Salt Institute, an authoritative source on salt. "Fortifying table salt with iodine was one of the greatest public health triumphs of the 20th century."

The British study, published June 2 in the journal Lancet, has prompted some health experts to call for mandatory iodization of salt in Great Britain. At the same time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other federal agencies continue to push for dramatic reductions of salt consumption.

..."Thousands of babies are born with brain damage that could have been avoided with just a few pinches of iodized salt," said Satin. "In light of this tragedy, it's nothing short of reckless for governments to be removing salt shakers from school lunchrooms. But that's exactly what we're seeing."

...Health experts estimate that even a moderate deficiency of iodine can lower intelligence by 10 to 15 IQ points. Fortunately, a powerful protector of brainpower is within easy reach.

That's why Martin tells her friends: "Make sure your children use iodized salt. It doesn't take a lot to help their brains."
I plugged a sentence from the article into the googlematic and turned up pages and pages of local papers across the country. I thought I remembered the Salt Institute from this debate on Colbert

and my recollection didn't fail me: the "authoritative source on salt" cited in the article is the salt industry trade association, active in promoting salt use and discouraging efforts to reduce consumption.

I looked to see who the author of the article was and found "(ARA)." What is ARA?
ARAcontent provides free, high-quality feature or special section content to editors, ad directors and publishers (print and online). All articles are copyright free and in a variety of categories coordinated to fit the editorial calendar of a typical newspaper.

Whether you are creating a special section or have a regular space to fill, our content is available online and is updated daily. All articles are written or edited by professional journalists and include high-resolution photos.
Free, high-quality content? That's so nice of them! However do they stay in business providing their services so selflessly? Their real clients, of course:
Since 1996, ARAnet has embraced changing technologies to provide our clients with industry-leading distribution to print and online markets. ARAnet partners with publishers in both markets to build relationships that deliver results.

These relationships form the backbone of our print distribution to daily and weekly newspapers in markets large and small throughout the United States. ARAnet’s branded articles educate consumers on a growing range of topics, while subtly incorporating information about our clients’ products and services.
ARA - "Building Brands - Educating Consumers - Driving Sales" by placing industry spin in your local paper. To be taken with a grain of...or in this case maybe not.

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