Feb 06 2014

Why We Should Be Very Afraid Of Salt

Everyone needs some salt to function. Also known as sodium chloride, salt helps maintain the body’s balance of fluids. Salt also functions in many foods as a preservative by helping to prevent spoilage and keeping certain foods safe to eat. But nearly all Americans consume more salt than they need, according to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines are published every five years by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The natural salt in food accounts for about 10 percent of total intake, on average, according to the guidelines. The salt we add at the table or while cooking adds another 5 to 10 percent. About 75 percent of our total salt intake comes from salt added to processed foods by manufacturers and salt that cooks add to foods at restaurants and other food service establishments.

Some FAQ about salt:

Q. What are the health effects of too much salt?

A. In many people, salt contributes to high blood pressure. High blood pressure makes the heart work harder and can lead to heart disease, stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease.

Q. What is the daily recommended amount of sodium for adults?

A. The amount of salt in a food is listed as “sodium” on the Nutrition Facts label that appears on food packaging. The Dietary Guidelines recommend that the general population consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day (about a teaspoon of table salt). Most food labels shorten the word “milligrams” to “mg.” Dietary recommendations and food labels use sodium rather than salt since it is the sodium component of salt that is most relevant for human health.

Some people are more sensitive to the effects of salt than others. The guidelines also recommend that, in general, individuals with hypertension, blacks, and middle-aged and older adults should limit intake to 1,500 mg of sodium per day.

The exceptions to this guideline are people whose doctors have put them on a diet that requires even less sodium because of a medical condition. Always follow your doctor’s recommendation about how much sodium you can have daily.

Q. What steps can I take to lower my salt (sodium chloride) intake?
A. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
Consume foods that are rich in potassium (e.g. fruits and vegetables). Potassium can help blunt the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The recommended intake of potassium for adolescents and adults is 4,700 mg/day. Potassium-rich foods include leafy, green vegetables and fruits from vines.
Flavor food with pepper and other herbs and spices instead of salt.
Choose unsalted snacks.
Read food labels and choose foods low in sodium.
Q. How can I tell if a food is low in sodium or high in sodium?

A. The Nutrition Facts label that appears on food packaging also lists the “% Daily Value” for sodium. Look for the abbreviation “%DV” to find it. Foods listed as 5% or less for sodium are low in sodium. Anything above 20% for sodium is considered high. Try to select foods that provide 5% or less for sodium, per serving.

Q. Are salt substitutes safe?

A. Many salt substitutes contain potassium chloride and can be used by individuals to replace salt in their diet. There are no known undesirable effects in healthy people who consume a lot of potassium; however, potassium could be harmful to people with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease. Check with your doctor before using salt substitutes.

Salt statistics!!

A. Salt in our diets
90 percent of the sodium we eat comes in the
form of salt.
• 77 percent of a person’s salt intake comes from
restaurant or processed food; only 6 percent is
added at the table and only 5 percent during

• Many foods that contribute a significant amount
of sodium in the diet do not taste particularly
salty, such as breads and cheeses. Some of these
foods are deceptively high in salt; others are
lower in salt content but frequently consumed.

B. Salt and blood

As sodium intake rises, so does blood pressure.

• Nearly 68 million U.S. adults (1 in 3) have high
blood pressure.
• High blood pressure increases the risk for heart
disease and stroke.
• High blood pressure usually has no warning
signs or symptoms, so many people do not
know they have it.
• 1 in 2 adults with high blood pressure does not
have it under control, and 1 in 3 does not receive
any treatment.
• If all Americans followed the recommended
limits for sodium, national rates for high blood
pressure would drop by a quarter, saving tens of
thousands of lives each year.

C. What are our “salt limits” ?
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
recommend limiting sodium intake to 1,500
milligrams (mg) per day for people 51 and older,
African Americans, and those who have high
blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney
disease—about half the U.S. population and the
majority of adults.
• All others should reduce sodium intake to less
than 2,300 mg per day.
• Nearly all American adults consume more
sodium than they need; most consume more
than twice their recommended limit each day.

D. How much does our treatment of heart disease cost?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) includes heart
disease, stroke, and other vascular diseases.
• CVD is the leading cause of death in the United
• Every 39 seconds, an adult dies of CVD.

• 1 in every 6 U.S. health care dollars is spent on
• 800,000 U.S. adults die of CVD each year; 150,000
of them are younger than 65.
• Reducing average population sodium intake to
1,500 mg per day may save $26 billion health
care dollars and reduce cases of hypertension by
16 million.

And the latest news indicates that our teenage population is taking in way too much salt in their diets. Researchers at
the Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Georgia Regents University, published their findings in the journal PEDIATRICS.

As reported in HEALTHDAY:
American teens are taking in as much dietary salt as adults, far exceeding guidelines on healthy limits for daily consumption, new research warns.

The investigation tracked the week-long eating habits of more than 760 black and white high school kids. It found that, on average, teens now ingest a whopping 3,280 milligrams (mg) of sodium (salt) every day.

That amounts to more than double the uppermost recommended level of 1,500 mg of sodium per day set forth by the American Heart Association.

For more information on salt in our diets, please visit the CDC, AHA and USDA web sites.


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