Recommended: Use a voucher code MAS5385 to save an extra 5% when shopping for supplements on iHerb.

Ice Station CoolHAVE YOU EVER visited Ice Station Cool, at Disney World’s Epcot Center in Orlando? It is “cool” in more than one way: not only can you get a welcome break from the Florida sunshine, but you can go inside the display and sample Coca Cola® products from other countries. For me, Ice Station Cool was an amazing experience.

Here’s why

I have drunk my share of Coke in the past, and I know exactly how it tastes. These other Coca Cola drinks, though, seemed way out of character to my born-in-the-USA taste buds.

Israel is represented by a concoction called Kinley Lemon. Germany kicks in with Mezzo Mix. And Italy spews forth with a drink named Beverly.

None of which taste even remotely like Coke.

To my palate, those other drinks taste awful. And that prompted me to wonder why in the world Coke would make them in the first place.

The obvious answer: because different cultures have different tastes. Something that sells well in Europe may be a total flop in the USA. And vice versa.

What if taste preferences lead to health concerns?

I was reminded of Coke’s Club Cool by a scientific research paper I read recently. Published in the journal of the Canadian Medical Association (CMAJ), the study looked at the salt content of fast foods in various countries. Researchers wanted to know, for instance, “How does the salt content of a Big Mac in France compared to that of a Big Mac purchased in the United States?”

Salt has long been blamed for helping to fuel the worldwide heart disease epidemic. Your body needs some salt, certainly. Salt is an essential electrolyte and is primarily responsible for regulating the flow of fluids in and out of cells.

When there is too much salt available in your body, though, it serves to attract water—thereby increasing the volume of your blood and putting excess pressure on your heart and blood vessels.

The research study, conducted by a team of health scientists, sought to investigate the food industry’s claims that reductions in the salt levels of foods are extremely difficult to accomplish due to technical difficulties.

“If that is so,” reasoned the researchers, “then fast food offerings should be consistent in salt content regardless of where they are sold.”

Not so.

chickenThe study looked at six countries and seven product categories. Chicken was found to have the highest average salt content overall (1.6 grams of salt per 100 grams of chicken), and salad came up the low-salt winner with 0.5 g/100g.

Moreover, the research showed a definite difference in country-specific salt content, with the USA taking the salt-preference crown.

Consider McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, for instance: McDonalds delivers customers two-and-one-half times more salt per serving in McNuggets purchased in the USA than allotted to consumers in the U.K.

Or get that Subway Club Sandwich in the States, instead of France, and you will consume more than double the amount of salt along with it.

To be fair, most products tested did not vary so dramatically—yet, the differences that were observed tended to indicate that perhaps the food industry does have the ability to vary the amount of salt in their foods … when they want to.

What is the argument about?

salt shakerWith both the U.K. and the USA calling on providers of packaged foods to reduce salt content, the food industry is fighting back. But why is that? What do they gain by varying the salt content in their foods?

Back to the Coca-Cola Ice Station Cool comparison: Consumer taste dictates whether or not a product is popular. If the people in a certain locale want salt, the food industry is more than willing to serve it up. Their business, after all, is based on selling the food people want to eat, not on selling food that is healthier for them. You want it your way? You got it.

One huge question

What can the consumer do to influence the food giants? The research paper leaned towards using the results of the study to pressure suppliers to conform to governmental requests for adherence to health guidelines.

Perhaps there is a better way, though—one that could effect a change rapidly if enough people got onboard.

How is this for a strategy: Just don’t buy high-salt foods.

Check and checkmate.

If you want your vote to count quickly, vote with your money. That gets the company’s ear every time.

Featured images:

About Author

Lane Goodberry loves Disney World, especially EPCOT Center. And there’s no better spot when it’s hot than Ice Station Cool. Just be careful about what you drink there. Lane’s writing focuses on optimal health.

Recommended: Use a voucher code MAS5385 to save an extra 5% when shopping for supplements on iHerb.

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