The following is a weekly 60 Minutes commentary by CBS News correspondent. It was first broadcast on Oct. 13, 1996.
Last week, I went to my doctor for my annual physical. Things are looking up for me. My weight is up, my cholesterol is up and my blood pressure is up.
I've been going to my doctor for long enough so he's also my friend and he was fairly insistent that I lose weight.
As I was leaving, he handed me two brochures. One, from the American Heart Association, is called "Sodium Restricted Diet" and the other was put out by the Morton Salt Company.
With due respect to my doctor, let me say in the nicest way I know how - these are ridiculous.
If you're going to help someone with a diet, you don't tell them how much salt there is in one ounce of Animal Crackers, 5/6th of an ounce of Shredded Wheat or in half a bouillon cube. When was the last time you ate half a bouillon cube?
If you followed this thing, you'd be eating off one of these scales.
I'm suspicious of the Morton Salt pamphlet any way. If their business is selling salt, are they really going to help someone use less of it?
And they keep calling salt sodium? Salt and sodium are the same thing. Why do they try to make it sound more important by calling it sodium?
You don't notice them calling it the Morton Sodium Company.
Here's the sodium, potassium and calorie content of strawberries. Half a cup of strawberries has one milligram of salt. I don't know how you measure half a cup of strawberries, let alone a milligram of salt. Do you mash them down, Morton's?
Between Morton's Salt and the American Heart Association, there isn't much I can eat. If I take their advice, don't expect to be seeing as much of me in the future because I'll be a shadow of my present self.
You may not recognize me next time you see me, now that I've read these two pamphlets.
The American Heart Association keeps telling me to see my doctor before I do anything. "Do not use any salt substitute that your doctor has not recommended."
"The important thing is to keep in touch with your physician while you are on a diet and to see him as often as he suggests."
Why is The American Heart Association trying to get in good with doctors?
I don't think doctors want you calling to chat all the time. My doctor's a busy man. He's so busy I'll bet he never read this before he gave it to me to read or he'd never have given it to me.
My doctor has a lot of patients. He doesn't want me hanging around asking if it's all right for me to eat 200 milligrams of low-sodium dietetic peanut butter. That's one of the items in the Heart Association's brochure.
Caviar is on their list of things that are bad for you. At $1,100 a pound, it would make anyone sick.
I must admit, there are a couple of surprises in here. Listen to this: "You may use carrots and celery sparingly to season a dish - one stalk of celery to a pot of stew."
The other day at a party I ate two stalks of celery so, if I'm not on next week because I dropped dead, blame that second stalk of celery.
By Andy Rooney
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