The report repeated evidence that reducing sodium in American diets — from today's average of more than 3,400 milligrams to the 2,300 mg (about a teaspoon) a day recommended for most healthy people — could prevent 100,000 deaths each year
"We've had 40 years of history with this and not much success," says Jane Henney, professor of medicine at the University of Cincinnati and editor of the Institute of Medicine report. "If over time we can get down to a reasonable level of sodium intake, it's going to make a real difference in terms of health outcomes, and we will see the impact in real dollars in healthcare savings."Prolonging the life of those whose health deteriorates so severely from over-consumption of salt could easily increase total healthcare costs. If the goal is simply to reduce healthcare costs, Corrections notes that the deceased have lower healthcare costs than the living. If healthcare cost is the dimension that this article suggests we optimize over, then we might even conclude that the government should encourage salt consumption. If it is maximizing health outcomes, then we note we have already repeatedly discussed how this will lead to less happiness even if it leads to longer lives.
In addition, the cross price elasticity of salt with far unhealthier foods may be less than negative one, in which case an increase in the "cost" of consuming salt can greatly increase the consumption of, say sugary or fatty foods. For example, if the local deli does not sell salt and vinegar potato chips to someone because advocates in New York would prefer that he not consume such salty foods, then rather than going on a hunt for this 150 calorie treat, this consumer may reach for a 250 calorie Slurpee. Obesity may lead to far more expensive complications than high sodium intake. The assumption that individuals will simply reduce sodium intake while keeping all other decisions constant is definitely in error.
Certainly, when debating the savings on lifestyle changes, authors should not keep "all else equal." In the real world, small changes tend to have large repercussions.