More education efforts needed over sodium intake, says HealthFocus

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sodium chloride Salt Nutrition Us

Consumers on both sides of the Atlantic are confused about how much sodium they should be consuming each day, two surveys of US and UK consumers have indicated.

HealthFocus International has quizzed consumers in both countries about their understanding and awareness of sodium consumption. It found that some 79 per cent of consumers in the US did not know that the recommended daily intake is 1500-2400mg – even though 65 per cent of people asked said they were concerned about their intake.

In the UK, where guidance is given as salt intake (sodium chloride), 82 per cent of those asked said they were not aware that adults are advised to consume no more than 6g of salt a day (equivalent to about 2000mg sodium).

The research group has said the findings indicate that more work is needed in both countries about the risks of excessive intake and overindulgence. Scientists have concluded that too much sodium can have detrimental health effects, the most well-known is a risk of hypertension which can lead to stroke and other cardiovascular problems.

However in both the US and the UK, consumers appeared to be more aware of excess sodium’s role in water retention and bloating than of cardiovascular and other health implications.

HealthFocus draws attention to recent data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in the US, which indicates that health blood pressure rates increased from 24 per cent in the US between 1988 and 1994, to 28 per cent between 1999 and 2000.

Awareness efforts

Programmes are underway in both the US and the UK to encourage consumers to reduce their sodium/salt intake. This has involved advertisements aimed at UK consumers from the Food Standards Agency, as well as coordination efforts with industry to curb the levels in processed and packaged products.

In the US, the FDA has said it is currently reviewing the findings of an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report that concluded a government-led strategy is needed to reduce sodium in processed foods, and that industry efforts have not gone far enough. The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) has said “a concerted public-private collaboration”​ is needed to achieve FDA goals to improve consumer health.

President of IFT Marianne Gillette said: “Significant progress has been made in reformulating food products, but considerable challenges remain. Food manufacturers must balance the multiple functions of sodium in food in addition to taste. Changing the sodium content in food impacts microbiological safety, flavor balance and quality, texture, mouthfeel, preservation, color and nutritional properties of a product.”

She added that there is still no single ideal substitute for sodium chloride.

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