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Sodium intake exceeds recommended amount

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Globally almost all countries have high sodium intake

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In 2010, the global mean sodium intake was 3.95 grams a day which was twice the daily recommendation of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended limitation of two grams a day.

In a new study researchers from the United States, United Kingdom and Greece estimated global, regional (21 regions) and national (187 countries) sodium intakes in adults in 1990 and 2010.

Dr. John Powles, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Cambridge Institute of Public Health, Cambridge, UK along with colleagues from Harvard School of Public Health, Agricultural University of Athens, Imperial College London and University of Washington, searched and obtained published and unpublished data from 142 surveys of 24 hour h urinary sodium and 103 of dietary sodium conducted between 1980 and 2010 across 66 countries. Dietary estimates were converted to urine equivalents based on 79 pairs of dual measurements.

The results showed the average intake of in 2010 was equivalent on average to 10.06 grams of salt per day per person with the intake ranging 9.88–10.21.

Salt intake was 10% higher in men than women.

Salt intake was the highest in East Asia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe with an average intake of over 4.2 grams a day and in Central Europe and Middle East/North Africa at 3.9–4.2 grams a day per person.

Salt intake in North America, Western Europe and Australia/New Zealand ranged from 3.4 to 3.8 grams per day.

Salt intakes were lower in, but more uncertain, in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America at 3.3 grams and under per day.

In their conclusion the team writes “Sodium intakes exceed the recommended levels in almost all countries with small differences by age and sex. Virtually all populations would benefit from sodium reduction, supported by enhanced surveillance.”

Dr. Powles explains "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 programs to reduce salt consumption and have the most scope for doing so.

According to Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, cardiologist and epidemiologist; Co-Director of the Program in Cardiovascular Epidemiology; Associate Professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School; and Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, Nearly all populations across the world are consuming far more sodium than is healthy.” “Clearly, strong government policies are needed, together with industry cooperation and collaboration, to substantially reduce sodium.”

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.

This study appears in BMJ Open.

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