Cosmetic fears drive concern about sodium intake, says survey

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sodium intake Sodium

A new US survey has suggested that a large number of consumers are only concerned about salt for cosmetic rather than health reasons.

The HealthFocus International (HFI) survey found that nearly two thirds (65 percent) of consumers are concerned about their salt intake. But within this group, the researchers said there are a large number of people whose concern is related to cosmetic or personal reasons.

Weight gain

A total of 26 per cent of the 800 respondents said they were concerned about salt because of its relationship with weight. This was especially true among women.

“The perception among women that excess sodium causes water weight gain is a greater motivator for avoiding sodium than high blood pressure,”​ said the HFI.

The survey also looked into how people monitor their sodium consumption and found that the vast majority of consumers do so instinctively, without reference to labels or daily intake levels.

One in five respondents did not know the recommended daily intake of 1500 to 2400mg and only 29 percent look regularly for sodium content on the foods they eat.

Of those who do at least monitor their sodium consumption HFI president Barbara Katz told that most do so by avoiding certain foods.

Avoidance strategy

Overwhelmingly, consumers correctly identified processed packaged foods and fast food restaurants as the two big contributors to sodium intake. Having said that, when asked how they reduce their sodium intake 55 percent said they avoid table salt, which plays only a small role in total salt intake.

The vast majority, 78 percent, also said sea salt is a healthier alternative to ordinary table salt.

And even though consumers were able to identify processed foods and fast foods as major sources of salt, only one third said they were therefore likely to avoid these products.

The major barrier to persuading consumers to act on their concerns about salt is taste. The survey found that when consumers were presented with claims like “low sodium,” “sodium free” and “reduced salt,” they were most likely to be tempted by products with the tag “reduced salt, same taste.”

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