Salt Intake

According to an article written by Steven Reinberg of the HealthDay Reporter, processed foods and restaurant meals account for most of our sodium intake in the U.S. diet. In reviewing the salt intake of about 450 U.S. adults, only 10% of salt or sodium in their diet came from food that was prepared by them at home, and ½ of that was added at the table.

Food that we eat from restaurant meals and store-bought foods accounted for 71% of salt intake. This includes crackers, breads and soups.  We must avoid those extra high sodium foods when shopping or eating out.  In order to prevent high blood pressure, we are advised to limit salt intake to 2,300 milligrams daily, said Harnack, a professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.  This is the equivalent of one teaspoon.  Currently, more than 8 out of 10 Americans exceed this limit by a mile.  The study participants had diaries that showed about 3,500 mg of sodium was consumed a day on average.  You can find this report online in the journal Circulation.

An epidemiologist, Kathryn Foti, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore was not involved in the study but pointed out that high blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke in the U.S.  Reducing our blood pressure can help prevent cardiovascular by reducing our salt intake, according to Foti. Reducing the content in commercially processed and prepared foods is the most effective way to reduce our salt intake.  If we could get voluntary reductions across the food supply it could have a large public health benefit.  By reducing the sodium intake by as little as 400 mg a day it could prevent up to 32,000 heart attacks and 20,000 strokes annually.

A sodium-reduction campaign to encourage food companies and restaurants to reduce the salt in their products has been launched by the American Heart Association.  Food companies and restaurants that have pledged to comply should be commended for doing so.  The doctors need to step up their efforts by educating patients about where their salt actually comes from as well.  They should also be emphasizing product selection as well “taking it easy” on the salt shaker.

Be sure to read the Nutrition Facts on packaged foods and swap out the high-sodium selections with lower-salt options, as these vary widely from brand to brand.  We can also request information at restaurants about the salt content of menu items, or at the least, ask how the foods are prepared.

Still, choosing those more fresh foods, such as fruits and vegetables, can help us all to reduce the salt in our diets.  This study involved 450 racially diverse adults from age 18 to 74, living in Birmingham, Alabama, Minneapolis-St Paul or Palo Alto, California.  The participants were asked to record their daily diet for four 24-hour periods between December 2013 and December 2014.  The study participants provided samples of salt equivalents, to the amount they added at home.  About 50% more than the recommended 2,300 mg was the average salt consumption.  Cooking only added about 6% and salt added at the table from the shaker accounted for 5%.  About 14% of dietary sodium was found in salt naturally in foods while salt in tap water, dietary supplements and antacids made up less than 1%.

Dr Fredda Branyon