Virtually all Americans eat too much salt and they may not realize which food culprits are the worst, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday. Most sodium in the U.S. diet comes from bread, lunch meat, pizza, chicken, soup, and burgers, the CDC found.
The average American gets 3,300 milligrams of sodium a day even before sprinkling on added salt at the table, the CDC found. This is twice the recommended limit for 60 percent of adults. To come up with the numbers, CDC researchers looked at a 2008 survey asking more than 7,000 American adults and children what they ate.
"About 90 percent of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet,” the CDC says in its report. The survey found that 10 categories of food accounted for 44 percent of sodium in the U.S. diet. Bread accounted for 7.4 percent, meat for 5 percent, and pizza for nearly 5 percent. Salty snacks such as potato chips weighed in at 3 percent.
“Together, these results suggest a comprehensive approach is needed that includes reductions in the sodium content in processed foods from stores, restaurants, and other food-service locations,” the report reads.
“Too much sodium raises blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke,” CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden added in a statement. “These diseases kill more than 800,000 Americans each year and contribute an estimated $273 billion in health care costs.”
The CDC said that 65 percent of sodium comes from food bought at grocery and other retail stories, while 25 percent comes from restaurant foods. The salt shaker is actually not a big contributor. Bread adds up because people eat so much of it even though each slice or roll in itself may not be high in sodium.
“We’re encouraged that some food manufacturers are already taking steps to reduce sodium,” said Frieden. “Kraft Foods has committed to an average 10 percent reduction of sodium in their products over a two-year period, and dozens of companies have joined a national initiative to reduce sodium. The leading supplier of cheese for pizza, Leprino Foods, is actively working on providing customers and consumers with healthier options. We are confident that more manufacturers will do the same.”
The CDC projects that cutting 1,200 mg a day of salt out of the average American’s diet could save the country $20 billion a year in health costs.