Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Too Much Salt in Your Diet: CDC

90% of Americans eat too much salt, dangerously exceeding their recommended daily amounts, according to a report from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) published last week.

Researchers from the CDC analyzed 2005-2006 data from 4,000 subjects, and compared their sodium intake to the 2005 USDA guidelines (it should be noted that experts expect these 2005 guidelines to be significantly lowered in 2010). They found that 9 Americans in 10 overall exceeded the standard recommended intake of 2,300 mg. Worse, they found that, among the 70% of Americans who should observe a lower intake of 1,500 mg (adults 40 years old and above, people with high blood pressure, African-Americans), 19 out of 20 exceed that amount. In fact, the average daily dose of salt consumed across all survey participants was a whopping 3,500 mg.

This dangerously excessive consumption of salt strongly contributes to high blood pressure, and severely increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. The CDC estimates that it causes 120,000 additional heart attacks and 66,000 additional strokes per year.

The study found that most of the salt consumed came from grains (1,300 mg), meat, poultry and fish (1,000 mg), and vegetables (450 mg). Grains include products primarily composed of grains, such as bread, pizza, and grain-based frozen meals. Vegetables, which when fresh contribute very little sodium, have a highly inflated contribution due to potato chips, canned vegetables and pre-made soups. The CDC identified the 5 worst contributors of salt as yeast breads, chicken dinners, pizza, pasta dishes, and cold cuts.

This calculation is in line with other analyses of food consumption: the 2005 USDA Dietary Guidelines estimate that 77% of all salt consumed comes from processed food, while 12% occurs naturally, 5% is added in the cooking process, and 6% is added at the table. In addition, restaurant food has been found by many studies to contribute very high amounts of sodium to the diners' diet, often providing in one meal the full daily recommended amount or more.

Our conclusion: by avoiding processed foods and cooking from primary ingredients, we can take out up to 2,300 mg of salt out of our daily consumption, and remain largely below even the lowest recommendations on salt consumption.

Want to read more about it? Try Associated Press, WebMD, Medical News Today, Business Week2, Business Week2, Reuters, USA Today, Food Consumer.

CDC Report (MMWR 59/24), PDF Version

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