First estimates of country-specific global salt intake identified

December 24, 2013, University of Cambridge
Grains of salt. Credit: Kevin Dooley

The global average salt intake in 2010 was around 10 grams per person per day, corresponding to 4 grams per day of sodium, according to a study published today in the BMJ Open. The study also reveals major regional variations around this global average.

In 181 of 187 countries (corresponding to 99.2% of the world adult population) studied by researchers led by the University of Cambridge and Harvard School of Public Health, national intakes exceeded the World Health Organization recommended intake of 2 grams per day of sodium (about 5 grams per day of salt). In 119 countries (88.3% of the world's adult population), the national intake exceeded this recommended amount by more than 1 gram per day of sodium.

"Nearly all populations across the world are consuming far more sodium than is healthy," said Dr Dariush Mozaffarian, from the Harvard School of Public Health. 'Clearly, strong government policies are needed, together with industry cooperation and collaboration, to substantially reduce sodium.'

The study also reveals major regional variations around this global average, as Dr John Powles, from the University of Cambridge's Department of Public Health and Primary Care explained: "Highest intakes are found in regions lying along the old Silk Road – from East Asia, through Central Asia to Eastern Europe and the Middle East."

Because most of these populations have high rates of cardiovascular disease they will gain most from programmes to reduce salt consumption – and have the most scope for doing so.

The study by Powles, together with colleague Saman Fahimi and researchers from the University of Harvard, Imperial College, London, and the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington provide the first estimates of global for every country across the globe. The researchers used the largest set of primary data sources yet compiled to derive estimates for all countries for 1990 and 2010.

Their estimates show that virtually all populations would benefit from reduction, supported by enhanced surveillance.

This newly published research makes it possible to estimate corresponding preventable disease burdens in specific countries and by specific age and sex subgroups. On average, intakes were about 10% higher in men than in women, but were very similar by age.

Sodium reduction has become high priority for global policy-makers looking to reduce non-communicable disease, but the design of policies has been hampered by the lack of information on salt intakes in most countries, and whether such intakes vary by age or sex.

Explore further: Adults worldwide eat almost double daily AHA recommended amount of sodium

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4 comments

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dogbert
5 / 5 (7) Dec 24, 2013
It should inform scientists when every population studied consumes approximately twice the recommended amount of salt. Sadly, it does not.

Other than the arbitrary decision on the appropriate amount of salt consumed, I suppose the question should be "Why is there a recommended amount at all?" Salt is easily excreted. Unless there is an identified disease process preventing the natural excretion of excess salt, why should salt be restricted at all?

Sodium reduction has become high priority for global policy-makers ...


Who appointed the global policy makers and who invested them with the task of directing the lives of everyone? Governments are not happy if there is anything which they are not controlling.
Ojorf
4 / 5 (5) Dec 24, 2013
So true dogbert, unless you have kidney problems or high blood pressure not a single (properly done peer reviewed) study has shown any negative effects of a high salt diet.
I am baffled by this low-salt fad sweeping the world.
dogbert
4.8 / 5 (4) Dec 24, 2013
Ojorf,

This is not even the first such study. A few years ago I read a study which spanned several countries and found that in every country, people consumed about twice the recommended amount of salt. In that study, I seem to remember that the researchers speculated that perhaps the recommended amount of salt was incorrect.

24volts
3.4 / 5 (5) Dec 25, 2013
That recommended amount of salt is a dumb idea and always has been. How do they compare someone doing hard labor in a hot environment with someone that sits in an air conditioned office all day? That's just one obvious difference of the many many different reasons some people would need more salt than others.

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