Eat more salt!

It will make your food taste better and unless you already have hypertension, it’s not going to hurt you.  Mind you, I’m not advocating to eat more processed food (generally high in sodium), but the evidence is clear that the vast majority of people worrying about their sodium intake are worrying needlessly.  Aaron Carroll has an excellent summary of the new dietary recommendations, but since I’ve already hit that topic, I’ll just focus on what he has to say about salt:

I wrote here at The Upshot not long ago about how a growing body of epidemiologic data was pointing out that low-salt diets might actually be unhealthy. But randomized controlled trials exist there, too. A 2008 study randomly assigned patients with congestive heart failure to either normal or low-sodium diets. Those on the low-sodium diet had significantly more hospital admissions. The “number needed to treat” for a normal-sodium diet above a low-sodium diet to prevent a hospital admission in this population was six — meaning that for every six people who are moved from a low-sodium diet to a normal diet, one hospital admission would be prevented. That’s a very strong finding.

Let’s not cherry-pick, though. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials of salt intake was published last year. Eight trials involving more than 7,200 participants looked at whether advising patients to cut down on salt, or reducing sodium intake, affected outcomes. None of the trials, including ones involving people with both normal and high blood pressure, showed a reduction in all-cause mortality.

Well, there you go.  Eat salt– it’s tasty and very unlikely to hasten your death or major illness.

Where the smart people live

Increasingly, it is in city centers.  Tom Edsall has a really interesting look at the changing demographics of American cities. Short version: there’s a lot of gentrification and a lot of Hispanics moving in.  What I found most interesting was these two charts of how Charlotte, NC has changed in the past couple of decades:

clt1 clt2

The fat left of those charts is really pretty amazing.  And Edsall writes that Charlotte is quite representative.  It’s certainly been happening here in Raleigh.  As for the political implications of all this:

The advantages for Democrats of these population transitions are notable. First, in big cities, a transformation of the white versus black struggle for power is increasingly a three-way contest: whites versus blacks versus Hispanics. Racial conflict is becoming more diluted.

Second, as the black and Hispanic populations disperse, these heavily Democratic constituencies will influence the election outcomes in an increasing number of congressional districts. This will lessen one of the Democrats’ liabilities: the huge concentration of favorable voters in city districts that vote Democratic by 3 to 1 or better margins, effectively wasting voters who would be more beneficial to the party if located in competitive districts.

On the plus side for Republicans, the influx into the suburbs of minorities and the poor – which raises the possibility of attendant tax increases, property value declines, social service demands and crime — could push local whites to the right, into Republican arms.

As for me, I continue to look with disdain on those in the exurbs, but really do enjoy my big house and big yard (relatively speaking) in a very diverse inner suburb.

Photo of the day

Recent National Geographic photo of the day:

Picture of the peaks of Gran Paradiso reflected in a still lake in Italy

Arcadian Oasis

Photograph by Stefano Unterthiner, National Geographic

A placid pond high in the Graian Alps mirrors the snow-crowned peaks of Italy’s Gran Paradiso National Park—the oldest protected area in a country known more for culture than for conservation.

Are conservatives humor deficient?

Enjoyed this piece in the Atlantic upon Jon Stewart’s announced retirement looking at the difference in humor between liberals and conservatives.  I’m not going to say that conservatives can’t have a great sense of humor, but when it comes to political satire, it is simply clearly dominated by liberals.  There’s actually some pretty interesting academic research on the matter :

But what is it about political satire that makes it so hard for conservatives to get it right?

Political humor, in particular, might have an inherently liberal bias. Alison Dagnes spent years looking into this question for her 2012 book A Conservative Walks Into a Bar. She spoke to dozens of working comedians who self-identified as liberals, and as many who identified as conservatives as she could find. One of the reasons she posits for a lack of conservative satire is that the genre has always been aimed at taking down the powerful, from the Revolutionary War through Vietnam and 9/11. “Conservatism supports institutions and satire aims to knock these institutions down a peg,” she wrote…

I really like the following part, as I remember meeting Young several years ago at a conference and having an interesting discussion with her about her research:

Could it be that American political satire is biased toward liberals in the same way that American political talk radio is biased toward conservatives? Dannagal Young, an assistant professor of communications at the University of Delaware, was looking into the lack of conservative comedians when she noticed studies that found liberals and conservatives seemed to have different aesthetic tastes. Conservatives seemed to prefer stories with clear-cut endings. Liberals, on the other hand, had more tolerance for a story like public radio’s Serial, which ends with some uncertainty and ambiguity…

As Young noticed, this is a kind of ambiguity that liberals tend to find more satisfying and culturally familiar than conservatives do. In fact, a study out of Ohio State University found that a surprising number of conservatives who were shown Colbert clips were oblivious to the fact that he was joking.

In contrast, conservative talk radio humor tends to rely less on irony than straightforward indignation and hyperbole…

These examples formed the kernel of Young’s theory that liberals and conservatives look for and see different kinds of humor. Connover, the producer of The Flipside, has already voiced skepticism about Young’s hypothesis. “That’s another way of saying that liberals are smarter,” Connover said. “And clearly that’s not the case. Liberals are some of the dumbest people to walk the earth.” Young insists that hypothesis is not about intelligence; it’s about a preferred structure of jokes. She maintains that there’s nothing inherently better about liking ironic jokes over exaggerated ones.

I’m not about to suggest that liberals are smarter than conservatives based on humor preferences.  And, okay, I’m really biased here because I love sharp political satire and ambiguity, but I will say I think liberal political humor requires more intelligence to really “get.”  I imagine the intelligence of liberals and conservatives is fairly well spread out, but perhaps the difference is that liberal political humor appeals to smart liberals and conservative political humor appeals (predominantly) to less intelligent conservatives.  Or something like that.  I’ll just say I’m glad I have Stewart and Colbert to entertain me rather than Rush Limbaugh.

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