Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Salt intake: the new public health hot topic shaking onto the scene

A recent New England Journal of Medicine article discusses reducing salt intake and its benefit to society. A national effort to reduce salt intake by 3 g (1200 mg of sodium) per day could reduce the incidence of coronary heart disease by 60,000-120,000, stroke by 32,000-66,000, and heart attacks by 54,000-99,000. Wow! The number of deaths annually due to these diseases could decrease by up to 90,000. Wow! And... for those number-crunchers, this could save the country $10-24 billion annually. Yes, annually.

And: "Even if the intervention reduced salt intake by just 1 g per day, the benefits would still be substantial and would warrant implementation." Now that's saying something.

The authors say there are 2 approaches to reducing salt intake:
  1. The individual approach involves individual consumers to reduce their daily intake through voluntary dietary decisions. However, the authors say, this method has been attempted and does not work.
  2. The public health approach involves getting manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt in processed foods.
New York City has started an initiative to get restaurants to reduce the amount of salt in food served to New Yorkers - a 25% reduction over 5 years has been proposed. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is about to release a report about salt intake. And the FDA is considering
changing the designation of salt to a category that would give consumers more information. [All from this New York Times article.]

One editorial article from the New York Times mentions that most salt in people's diets comes from processed foods, not from adding salt individually. So the processed foods are what we should be targeting - restaurants and food manufacturers. Let the battle begin!

This post comes in honor of World Salt Awareness Week, according to CDC. (There's a week/month for everything, eh?) Check out this fact sheet about salt and salt intake.

And check out this previous post by Lisa for more about reducing sodium levels.

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