Americans aren’t even coming close to cutting their salt intake to recommended levels; and government and the food industry need to do a lot more to help, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.
Just about half the population should limit salt to very low levels – 1,500 milligrams a day or less. But virtually none of those who should limit salt are doing so, the CDC said in its weekly report on death and disease.
“Statistics presented in the CDC report underscore the urgency of reducing sodium in the U.S. food supply, “ the agency said in its weekly report on death and disease.
People who eat too much salt develop high blood pressure, which in turn causes stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, and other problems. Ninety percent of Americans eventually develop high blood pressure.
The salt shaker isn’t really to blame – processed food is, the CDC said. “Approximately 75 percent of sodium consumed is added to commercial foods during processing or to restaurant foods during preparation; only about 25 percent occurs naturally or is added at the table or in cooking by the consumer,” the report said.
U.S. guidelines say that Americans should keep daily sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams or less, and that all people over 51; African-Americans; and people with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease should limit their intake to 1,500 mg. The CDC did its calculations by looking at a national survey of 18,000 people; it found that 98.5 percent of the people in those groups were eating more than 1,500 mg a day.
The American Heart Association said that the CDC recommendations did not go far enough.
“Given that most of us – as many as 90 percent -- will develop high blood pressure with age, we all should be consuming less than 1,500 mg a day of sodium, unless your health care provider has told you that this doesn’t apply to you,” Dr. Clyde Yancy, past president of the American Heart Association and the cardiology chief at Northwestern University, said in a statement.
“With the direct and indirect costs of cardiovascular disease already at $444 billion a year and rising, and with high blood pressure the single largest driver of those costs, this suggestion doesn’t go far enough to address either the human or economic burden that our excessive intake of salt costs," said Dr. Gordon Tomaselli of Johns Hopkins University and current president of the American Heart Association. "Other countries have realized this and are addressing it aggressively.”
The CDC notes this, pointing to a British campaign that lowered sodium intake by nearly 10 percent over eight years. “The reductions were associated with a government-manufacturer partnership to reduce sodium through use of voluntary maximum targets for specific processed foods,” the CDC said. “Similar reductions, if achieved in the United States, are estimated to save $4 billion in health care costs per year and $32.1 billion over the lifetime of adults aged 40–85 years today.”
An Institute of Medicine panel said on Thursday that food labels really don’t mean much to most Americans and recommended going to a universal symbol that would tell consumers just how healthy a food product is. Sodium content should be an important part of the consideration, the institute said.