Swedish salt study calls for clearer rules for food industry

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Salt intake, Hypertension, Nutrition, Blood pressure

Young Swedish men are consuming twice as much salt as recommended, says a new study which increases pressure on the food industry to curb the salt content of its products.

Swedish male 18 to 20- year olds were found to consume an average of double the WHO recommended of 80 to 110 micromoles of sodium per day, equivalent to 5 to 6 grams of salt per day, according to findings published in Public Health Nutrition​.

In countries like the UK, Ireland, the USA, and other Western countries, over 80 per cent of salt intake comes from processed food, and people therefore do not realize they are consuming it.

The findings from the new Swedish study therefore refocus attention on the role of the food industry in the ongoing.

“Regulation of the salt content in processed and fast food and in snacks is advocated to curtail the salt burden on society imposed by the food industry,”​ wrote the authors, led by Professor Lena Hulthérn from the University of Gothenburg.

“The food industry needs clear regulations on how much salt it is allowed to use if we want to reduce total salt intake. One solution could be to follow Finland's example, where all food packaging has to clearly state the salt content to make it easier for the consumer to select products containing less salt,”​ she added.

Salt is of course a vital nutrient and is necessary for the body to function, but the average daily salt consumption in the western world, between 10 and 12g, vastly exceeds recommendations from WHO/FAO of 5 grams per day to control blood pressure levels and reduce hypertension prevalence and related health risks in populations.

“It's alarming that young Swedish men are consuming so much salt, and something needs to be done about it. We can really only speculate on the consequences of such a high salt intake later on in life, in the form of cardiovascular diseases and stroke,”​ said Hulthén.

Study details

Almost 80 men aged between 18 and 20 participated in the study. Urine samples were analysed over a 24-hour period, while a food frequency questionnaire and an interview by a trained nutritionist assessed dietary habits.

Findings showed that the average salt intake was least double the WHO’s recommended daily intake of six grams, said the researchers.

Despite the high salt intake, all the subjects had normal blood pressure, said the researchers.

“High salt intake can lead to high blood pressure, but we couldn't detect any connection in our study. High blood pressure doesn't usually develop until a person is in their 30s or 40s, since the kidneys' ability to deal with the excess salt deteriorates with age,”​ said Hulthén.

Salt reduction in action

In 2009, the largest double-blind trial of modest salt reduction in a free-living population showed that moderate reductions do indeed result in clinically relevant and beneficial reductions in blood pressure

The study, published in the American Heart Association’s Hypertension​ journal found that reducing salt intake from 9.7 to 6.5 grams per day reduced average blood pressure from 146/91 to 141/88 mmHg within six weeks.

Source: Public Health Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, First View Article​, doi:10.1017/S1368980009991431
“Salt intake in young Swedish men”
Authors: L. Hulthén, M. Aurell, S. Klingberg, E. Hallenberg, M. Lorentzon, C. Ohlsson

Related topics: R&D, Preservatives and acidulants

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