Monday, July 22, 2013

Are People Still Consuming Too Much Salt?

Being one of the oldest food seasonings, salt has 2 major components: sodium and chloride ions. Salt is needed by human body to perform a variety of essential functions. Besides helping maintain fluid in the body cells and transmitting information in the nerves and muscles, salt can also be used in the uptake of certain nutrients form the small intestines.

While human require only a small quantity of salt each day, the salt consumption has increased to a level that is harmful to the body. Statistics showed that most Americans eat more than twice the recommended daily allowance of sodium.

Excess intake of sodium can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure), which in turn is a major risk factor for stroke and heart disease. About 80 percent of the sodium consumed by Americans is from restaurants and food manufacturers.

Despite the urge by health experts to cut salt intake for better health, the amount of salt found in processed or fast food is still high, according to a study that was published online on May 13, 2013 in the ‘Journal Of The American Medical Association’.

The findings showed that there was little change in terms of sodium content in sample of 480 processed and restaurant food from 2005 to 2011. The sample is only a small percentage of the thousands of foods in restaurants and grocery stores.

Though some products like sliced cheddar cheese and canned tomato soup did show decreases, others showed increases. Restaurant French fries, cheese pizza, whole-wheat bread, Caesar dressing, and barbecue sauce were found to have higher sodium in 2011 than 2005. A decrease of at least 30 percent was found in some of the products studied, but an increase of at least 30 percent was found in a greater number of products.

As suggested by some research, lowering salt intake could save up to 150,000 lives a year in the United States. There are, however, different views on whether consumers should cut sodium or whether the food industry should face tighter regulations.

Judge by what the new study has revealed, it seems that voluntary approach has failed. The food industry has not been making much changes. Hence, the researchers urge government to step in to protect the public by imposing regulations on the food industry. Otherwise, it is estimated that at least one million deaths and $100 billion in health-care costs will be incurred in the coming decade.

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