In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently quantified the problem with a report saying that most Americans consume more than double the daily recommended level of sodium, a major component of salt. An Institute of Medicine committee has begun exploring ways to control intake that could include new regulations, education and further efforts from the food industry.
Since sodium occurs naturally in a few foods and its use is ubiquitous, eliminating it from American diets would be impossible and not advised, because a small amount is needed for proper body function. But if reduction efforts are successful, proponents say there would be less hypertension, and less heart disease and fewer strokes.
“There are a lot of dietary factors that affect blood pressure, but salt is front and centre,” said Lawrence J Appel, a professor of medicine, epidemiology and international health at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and a salt panel member at the Institute of Medicine, a scientific advisory panel.
Appel said putting down the shaker would be a good start, yet most salt is added during processing or in restaurant preparation. That means retooling at the plants and commercial kitchens, and changing the way we think about food.
Take pizza, one of the saltiest and most popular foods. Makers would have to dump long-used recipes for crust and sauce. They would also have to engineer new cheese, as salt is integral to its taste and preservation.
Appel said public tastes would acclimate to less salt quickly. If nothing is done, he said, the nation’s blood pressure, which naturally climbs throughout people’s lives, would continue to rise to unhealthy levels faster.
The CDC study released last month was the first to use national data to show that nearly 70% of adults should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day. They are people with high blood pressure, black people and those older than 40. Other adults should consume less than 2,300mg a day, or about a teaspoon.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group that sued in 2005 to get salt off the Food and Drug Administration’s list of safe food ingredients, says restaurant and processed foods deliver more than three quarters of the salt people consume.
Appel is further dismayed by recent consumer trends in ‘gourmet’ salt and ‘natural’ sea salt, which he says is still salt.
“Salt is the new bad guy and deserves to be,” he said. “It’s the single most harmful thing in the food supply.”
Source: San Francisco Chronicle
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