Reducing Salt

From Think Progress:

In a new study published in the online edition of the British Medical Journal,researchers write that a 50 percent reduction in daily salt intake “could prevent approximately 100,000 deaths from heart attack and stroke in the United States every year.” Curbing salt intake by that high a margin is certainly a mean feat — but not because Americans are saturating their food with sodium. Rather, study authors suggest that the real culprits are food makers who douse their products with harmful levels of salt.

Results from the controlled study — which measured the blood pressures of 3,000 adults who dramatically curbed their salt intake over the course of a month — indicated an average five point drop in systolic blood pressure and confirmed similar findings previously published in the Journal. Last month, Harvard researchers conducting a separate study also found that excess sodium was linked to one in ten American deaths. Since high blood pressure is the number one risk factor associated with heart disease and stroke, the findings suggest that U.S. public health would benefit substantially from lower salt consumption.

But actually achieving a substantial change in sodium intake could be difficult considering that Americans aren’t the ones pumping their meals full of salt — food corporations are. “Eighty percent of the salt that we eat is added by the food industry,” study author and professor of cardiovascular medicine Graham MacGregor told Those numbers are borne out by CDC data showing that the vast majority of salt consumption derives from processed foods:

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  • jon

    but what would a 50% reduction of the salt of the world do?

  • jon

    also, working in the food industry, I would respond by explaining that the food industry only gives the customers what they demand. Customers up until recently have demanded cheap convenience over sustainable quality. Customers demand the newest fad diet they hear about from TV, whether or not it’s good for them. Customers demand food that tastes good, which really means fatty, sugary, and salty food. Now, customers demand all those things, but with the word “organic” thrown in somewhere. (i would argue that most of what people think “organic” means is not what it actually describes, but organic has just become a marketing strategy).

    Few people actually want to bother with a decent wholesome diet. They want someone else to tell them what to eat, have it made for them, have it taste good, and have it cheap.

  • Randy Gabrielse

    Actually, I red this article this morning. Given that I was preparing to visit my physician to address the problems we are having getting my BP under control, it seemed a natural. My wife and I have been essentially eating a “Slow foods” diet for more than 6 years. It makes salt control relatively easy, and cuts much of the alleged “food industry” out altogether. I learned a lot about the “food industry” while I worked as a campus minister at Iowa State, the home of ever more and new uses for corn.

  • RobS

    Jon (#2) has a point — salt is cheap and easy to flavor things. Canned pasta and macaroni & cheese anyone? Boxed/prepared style foods are off the charts in sodium — and restaurants reach new ultra high levels in most cases. With a culture that loves eating out, it gets hard.

    I eat a lower sodium diet (target: 1600-1800mg/day) due to having symptoms like Meniere’s Disease (vertigo) and have become wildly aware at how much salt is in things. Nutrition education combined with self-discipline would be the big factors to control here.

    Our house is definitely learning to cook with a wide variety of different herbs & spices now. Low salt cookbooks really do give a lot of flexibility and ideas (pancakes to Asian style can be done!)

  • I think they are overstating their case. I have read elsewhere that actually only 10% of hypertensives are sensitive to sodium. The rest can reduce all they want and it will not affect their blood pressure at all. I saw this in my dad, who ate a low sodium diet for years but it did not help his blood pressure. Now if they had had CPAP machines then, it would have made a difference!

  • Mike M

    It’s still “the less processed the better.” Whether you are a sodium-dependent hypertensive or an apologist for our highly processed crap food industry you’ll still benefit from eating fresh (and slow carbs as above). And eating organic isn’t a fad, just a return to common sense after a 3 decade hiatus.