News article

Global salt intake 'double' recommended amount

Posted:  Sunday, January 05, 2014

Food lovers across the world are putting their health at risk by consuming double the amount of salt than recommended, according to new research led by Cambridge University. A study has found that the global average intake of sodium was 4g salt per person a day in 2010, the equivalent of around 10g or two teaspoons of salt. The figures reveal that people, particularly in Asia, were consuming double the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 5g per day.

Using data compiled between 1990 and 2010, the research forms the first estimates of global salt intake for every country across the globe.

Leader of the study John Powles, for the University’s Department of Public Health and Primary care, said: “Highest intakes are found in regions lying along the old Silk Road – from East Asia, through Central Asia to Eastern Europe and the Middle East.”

Published in the journal BMJ Open, the study found that national intakes of sodium exceeded the World Health Organization recommended intake of 2 grams per day of sodium, which is about 5 grams per day of salt.

In 119 countries, the national intake exceeded this recommended amount by more than 1 gram per day of sodium.

While no significant increase in salt intake was found to take place between 1990 and 2010, the researchers were able to show that countries with the highest intake of salt were generally found along what was known as the Silk Road.

The researchers also said that as most of these populations have high rates of cardiovascular disease, they will gain most from programmes to reduce salt consumption – and have the most scope for doing so.

Prof Powles said: “In western countries most salt is added to food before it reaches the household (about 75 per cent).

So the UK strategy concentrates on reducing salt in manufactured food. There have been formal (but ‘voluntary’) agreements with the food industry for phased reductions in the amount of sodium in different types of food.

In countries like China a much higher proportion of salt is added in the household – in food preparation and at the table. So emphasis has also to be placed on changing public behaviour. This is more difficult than reducing the salt added to manufactured foods, but is a challenge that needs to be faced.”

Global, regional and national sodium intakes in 1990 and 2010: a systematic analysis of 24 h urinary sodium excretion and dietary surveys worldwide John Powles, Saman Fahimi, Renata Micha, Shahab Khatibzadeh, Peilin Shi, Majid Ezzati, Rebecca E Engell, Stephen S Lim, Goodarz Danaei, Dariush Mozaffarian, on behalf of the Global Burden of Diseases Nutrition and Chronic Diseases Expert Group (NutriCoDE) BMJ Open 2013;3:12 e003733

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