II: Salt

Why so much salt has iodine in it.

II: Salt
Sea salt. Photo by Jason Tuinstra / Unsplash

Good morning. Today is duodi, the 22nd of Nivôse, Year CCXXXI. We celebrate le sel, the rock that people need to eat the most.

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The word "salary" comes from salt because the stuff was so valuable that Roman soldiers used to be paid with it. Right? Except there's no evidence of this. An etymological myth that traces back at least 350 years, there's clearly some connection between "pay" and "salt" or the word wouldn't have come so clearly and directly from Latin through French and into English. But the only records from Roman times of salt's value have more to do with its taxation or usefulness as a trade commodity, never as an actual form of money. Roman soldiers were given ingredients as rations, and salt would have had an outsized value on long marches to make their meat rations last, but this was an entirely separate issue from their pay and plunder, which would have been in gold. Nevertheless, "worth one's salt" is still in force, the myth supplanting the truth to become the truth itself.

What's up with iodized salt? Is that a purification process, like pasteurization? A type of salt that comes from a certain area? Like Iowa?

Supplementing salt with iodine is a public health initiative that has roots 200 years ago, but only began in earnest after World War I. As with fluoride in municipal drinking water, adding iodine to salt was seen as a cheap, unobtrusive, year-round way to get more people consuming more iodine without having to tell them about it. Unlike fluoride, however, you won't find vast conspiracies spun about it being a sneaky form of mind control. Nobody seems to mind. Maybe because the consequences of iodine deficiency are so severe.

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