Voluntary reduction has failed as processed and fast food salt levels remain high as ever

May 13, 2013, Northwestern University

The dangerously high salt levels in processed food and fast food remain essentially unchanged, despite numerous calls from public and private health agencies for the food industry to voluntarily reduce sodium levels, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study conducted with the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The study, which will be published May 13 in JAMA Internal Medicine, assessed the sodium content in selected processed foods and in fast- restaurants in 2005, 2008 and 20011. The main finding was that the sodium content of food is as high as ever.

"The voluntary approach has failed," said Stephen Havas, M.D., corresponding author of the paper and a research professor of at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "The study demonstrates that the food industry has been dragging its feet and making very few changes. This issue will not go away unless the government steps in to protect the public. The amount of sodium in our food supply needs to be regulated."

Excess sodium prematurely kills as many as 150,000 people in the U.S. each year. About 90 percent of the U.S. population develops high blood pressure and high salt in the diet is a major cause. increases the risk of developing heart attacks and strokes, often resulting in death or disability.

"High in food benefits the food industry," Havas said. "High salt masks the flavor of ingredients that are often not the best quality and also stimulates people to drink more soda and alcohol, which the industry profits from."

A typical American consumes an average of almost two teaspoons a day of salt, vastly higher than the recommended amount of three-fifths of a teaspoon or no more than 1,500 milligrams, as recommended by the . About 80 percent of our daily sodium consumption comes from eating processed or restaurant foods. Very little comes from salt we add to food.

"The only way for most people to meet the current sodium recommendation is to cook from scratch and not use salt," Havas said. "But that's not realistic for most people."

The FDA needs to begin regulating food processors and the restaurant industry—as has been recommended by the Institute of Medicine and others –- as soon as possible, Havas said.

Havas noted that our taste buds rapidly adapt to less salt. "If it's reduced by 20 percent a year, no one would know the difference," he said.

The study found that between 2005 and 2011, the sodium content in 402 processed foods declined by approximately 3.5 percent, while the sodium content in 78 fast-food restaurant products increased by 2.6 percent. Although some products showed decreases of at least 30 percent, a greater number of products showed increases of at least 30 percent. The predominant finding was the absence of any appreciable or statistically significant changes in during six years.

Explore further: Canadians support interventions to reduce dietary salt

More information: JAMA Intern Med. Published online May 13, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6154
JAMA Intern Med. Published online May 13, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6159

Related Stories

Canadians support interventions to reduce dietary salt

March 13, 2013
Many Canadians are concerned about dietary sodium and welcome government intervention to reduce sodium intake through a variety of measures, including lowering sodium in food, and education and awareness, according to a national ...

How much sodium are you eating? New online salt calculator sums it up

March 11, 2013
Canadians can track how much salt they're eating and identify the main sources of sodium in their diet using a new online Salt Calculator.

Most pre-packaged meals, snacks for toddlers contain too much salt

March 21, 2013
Nearly 75 percent of commercial pre-packaged meals and savory snacks for toddlers are high in sodium, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity ...

Adults worldwide eat almost double daily AHA recommended amount of sodium

March 21, 2013
Seventy-five percent of the world's population consumes nearly twice the daily recommended amount of sodium (salt), according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism ...

Reducing sodium in US may save hundreds of thousands of lives over 10 years

February 11, 2013
Less sodium in the U.S. diet could save 280,000 to 500,000 lives over 10 years, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.

The stealth sodium revolution

March 8, 2012
Researchers with the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services have teamed up for HHS's sodium surveillance efforts.

Recommended for you

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

Study reveals what sleep talkers have to say

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in France has conducted a study regarding sleep talking and has found that most sleep talking is not only negative in nature, but involves a large amount of swearing. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.