Keep Meals Yummy, but CUT BACK ON SALT

December 31, 2009 in Foodland Chronicles, Health Claims, Nutrition by Joyce Bunderson

This doesn’t happen very often but the British Medical Journal has published the entire article for free in the name of public interest.

Italian researchers lead by Pasquale Strazzullo studied the relationship between the level of habitual salt intake and stroke or total cardiovascular disease outcome.

The bottom line for consumers is that cutting salt intake by about a teaspoon a day could significantly reduce our risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.

They did a meta-analysis of prospective studies published 1966-2008 (translation: A huge statistical project of 13 studies designed to predict future consequences of salt intake, with 177,025 participants, followed for 3.5 to 19 years, and over 11000 vascular events.) One of the details that the researchers found was that the studies that were conducted for longer follow-up periods showed an even stronger relationship between salt intake and stroke risk, but did not show that increased relationship for cardiovascular events.

What they concluded, from looking at all that data was that “high salt intake is associated with significantly increased risk of stroke and total cardiovascular disease.” Although they found an associated 23% lower rate of strokes and a 17% lower risk of cardiovascular disease with decrease of just 5 grams of salt a day (1 teaspoon of salt), they felt that the effect sizes were likely to be underestimated because of imprecision in measurement of salt intake. That just means that people have difficulty in measuring how much salt they are eating and it is usually found to be more than their estimates.

The level of salt intake that is recommended by this study would be cutting the salt intake of in the typical American diet (estimated at about 10 grams daily) to about half.

Since I’ve been writing about goals for better health in the New Year, I thought that the salt reduction goal should not be left out.

First, you should know what is the main culprit in the high salt content in foods. This quote is found on the University of Maryland’s Medical Center Web site.  Other sources state that a full 80% of our US salt intake is from eating out, plus taking processed foods home to eat.

“Roughly 75 percent of the daily sodium intake of the U.S. population comes from salt in processed and restaurant foods. Only 10 percent comes from foods’ natural content. That makes it extremely difficult for consumers to follow a low-sodium diet.”

So the number one recommendation is to cut back on eating out and on serving processed foods at home. Strive to do more cooking at home - you'll reduce your salt intake and increase your nutritional status.

Other Tips for Reducing Sodium in Your Diet

Tips on How to Prepare Lower Salt Meals

Quick Facts on Salt

The superstition of spilled salt.

This is no joke; I remember my grandmother throwing salt over her shoulder if she spilled salt – to prevent bad luck. Now days, we may have a little more ‘luck’ if we threw more of it over our shoulders and had less in our food.

Coarse Kosher Salt (plate), table salt, and sea salt - are all salt.

Coarse Kosher Salt (plate), table salt, and sea salt - are all salt.