Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Why Should Salt Consumption Be Cut?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), non-communicable diseases including heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of premature death globally. 17 and a half million people died every year because of these 2 cardiovascular diseases, and overuse of salt is blamed to be a major culprit.

Salt contains chloride and sodium ions that are needed by all known living creatures in small quantities. It is involved in regulating the water content or fluid balance of the body, and the sodium ion itself is used for electrical signaling in the nervous system. But consuming too much salt can be bad for the body. Evidence has shown that consuming too much salt can lead or contribute to hypertension (high blood pressure), and significantly raise the risk of heart disease and stroke.

On the World Heart Day held September 29, 2014, WHO is calling on countries to act on the overuse of salt by implementing WHO’s sodium reduction recommendations to cut the number of people experiencing heart disease and stroke, and hence save up to 2 million deaths a year. The target is to cut salt by 30 percent by 2025.

In most countries, 80 percent of salt is consumed through processed foods such as bread, cheese, bottled sauces, cured meats and ready-made meals and it is the sodium in the salt that actually accounts for the health disorders. WHO recommends the population reduce salt consumption to less than 5 grams (about a teaspoon) per day for adults and even less for children aged between 2 and 15 years.

People are currently consuming 10 grams of salt per day on average, and much of the sodium in food is over the limit that people’s taste buds can actually perceive. In fact, the manufacturers of many of these foods could simply cut the sodium levels by around 5 percent and the consumers would not recognize any difference in taste.

The WHO is urging all food manufacturers and retailers to lower the levels of salt in food and beverage products, and to make healthy and low-sodium food available and affordable. 

It also suggests some strategies to reduce salt consumption that include implementing regulations and policies to ensure that food manufacturers and retailers reduce the levels of salt in food and beverage products; fostering healthy eating environments that promote salt reduction in public places such as schools, hospitals, workplaces and public institutions, and ensuring clear food labeling so consumers can easily understand the level of salt in products.

Meanwhile, individuals and families should check salt levels on processed food labels, request less salt in prepared food products, and remove salt-shakers and bottled sauces from dining tables.

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