THURSDAY, June 24 (HealthDay News) -- Ninety percent of
Americans are eating more salt than they should, a new government
In fact, salt is so pervasive in the food supply it's difficult
for most people to consume less. Too much salt can increase your
blood pressure, which is major risk factor for heart disease and
"Nine in 10 American adults consume more salt than is recommended," said report co-author Dr. Elena V. Kuklina, an epidemiologist in the Division of Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention at the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention.
Kuklina noted that most of the salt Americans consume comes from
processed foods, not from the salt shaker on the table. You can
control the salt in the shaker, but not the sodium added to
processed foods, she said.
"The foods we eat most, grains and meats, contain the most sodium," Kuklina said. These foods may not even taste salty, she added.
Grains include highly processed foods high in sodium such as
grain-based frozen meals and soups and breads. The amount of salt
from meats was higher than expected, since the category included
luncheon meats and sausages, according to the CDC report.
Because salt is so ubiquitous, it is almost impossible for
individuals to control, Kuklina said. It will really take a large
public health effort to get food manufacturers and restaurants to
reduce the amount of salt used in foods they make, she said.
This is a public health problem that will take years to solve,
Kuklina said. "It's not going to happen tomorrow," she
"The American food supply is, in a word, salty," agreed Dr. David Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine. "Roughly 80 percent of the sodium we consume comes not from our own salt shakers, but from additions made by the food industry. The result of that is an average excess of daily sodium intake measured in hundreds and hundreds of milligrams, and an annual excess of deaths from heart disease and stroke exceeding 100,000."
"As indicated in a recent IOM [Institute of Medicine] report, the best solution to this problem is to dial down the sodium levels in processed foods," Katz added. "Taste buds acclimate very readily. If sodium levels slowly come down, we will simply learn to prefer less salty food. That process, in the other direction, has contributed to our current problem. We can reverse-engineer the prevailing preference for excessive salt."
The report is published in the June 25 issue of the CDC's
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
For about 70 percent of adults, salt intake should be limited to
1,500 milligrams (mg) a day, but only 5.5 percent of these adults
meet that level, according to the report.
For others, the recommended amount of daily salt intake is less
than 2,300 mg a day, according to the report.
Reducing your salt intake is not only important for people with
high blood pressure, Kuklina said. It's good for everybody, "even
if you don't have hypertension," she said.
There are some things people can do to reduce their salt intake,
Kuklina said. You can eat fewer processed foods and focus on fresh
and frozen foods. You also can read the product labels to see how
much salt is in the food and opt for low-sodium foods, she
Also, Kuklina advises rinsing canned vegetables and beans in
water to remove salt.
The data for the report was collected from 3,922 individuals who
took part in the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition
Samantha Heller, a dietitian, nutritionist and exercise
physiologist, commented that "nearly 80 percent of our sodium
intake comes from processed, restaurant, frozen and prepared
Research suggests that reducing sodium intake to 2,300 mg/day
for healthy folks and to 1,500 mg/day for people with high blood
pressure, who are middle-aged, older or black will reap substantial
health benefits, Heller said.
"Food companies have indicated that they will lower the sodium in some of their products, but it will take time before that happens, and only some products will have lowered sodium. The truth is that dropping our intake to 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams a day is difficult to do and unrealistic for most people," she said.
Consumers will be best served by cooking more foods at home. It
saves money and helps reduce the intake of dietary sodium,
saturated fats, trans fats, refined carbohydrates and excess
calories, Heller said.
"Any reduction in dietary sodium is a move in the right direction," she added. "We can help ourselves by increasing our awareness of where sodium is hidden in foods, reading food labels -- look for milligrams of sodium per serving -- ignore the percent on the label -- checking the sodium in the foods served at restaurants we frequent when it is available and taking charge of our health and what we eat by making more of our meals at home."
For more information on limiting salt, visit the
U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood