Sodium seeps into American’s daily diet

February 27, 2012

Bread is the leading cause of high sodium intake, CDC says

By Julissa McKinnon, California Health Report

About 90 percent of Americans are overloading on sodium, but don’t blame your saltshaker.

It’s creeping into our diets one bite at a time through foods that are a part of our regular diet: bread, meats, pizza and poultry, according to a report released earlier this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Processed foods are a big part of the problem because sodium added during the manufacturing process can’t be removed, the report says.

Though a single serving of bread is not especially high in sodium, it ranks as America’s top source because of how much we consume, according to the CDC report.

Store-bought meats, the nation’s second largest source of sodium, are commonly injected with a sodium solution – a preservative that also gives meat a plumper, fresher look.

Americans on average eat about 3,300 mg of sodium a day, far exceeding the government’s recommended daily dose of 2,300 mg. Too much sodium has consequently put most Americans at risk of developing high blood pressure, which may lead to heart disease and stroke.

“Even when the consumer reads nutritional labels it’s still very challenging (to reduce sodium intake) because it’s everywhere and in big amounts,” said Elena Kuklina, a nutritional epidemiologist for the CDC. “Historically, it’s been in our food.”

There are no limits on how much sodium food manufacturers or restaurants can add to meals but there are efforts underway to change that, Kuklina said.

In the meantime, one of the easiest ways to shed sodium from the diet is to fill up on more fresh fruits and vegetables, the CDC report says.

However, this may prove difficult for some Americans, said Adam Drewnowski, professor of Epidemiology at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health.

“If we’re thinking fresh foods are the way to reduce sodium, it may not work for everyone economically,” Drewnowski said.

Other sodium-cutting strategies encouraged by the CDC require reading nutrition labels at the grocery store and asking questions when eating out.

Because 65 percent of America’s sodium comes from grocery store products, the CDC recommends shopping for lower sodium choices or brands. Fast-food or sit-down restaurant meals, often sodium-packed, account for about 25 percent of sodium consumed. The CDC advises asking for lower sodium menu options or cooking at home.

A sodium-heavy diet can eventually be fatal.

More than 800,000 people die of heart disease, stroke and other vascular diseases each year, according to the CDC. In 2010, this cost the nation $273 billion in health care.

“If we are able to reduce our sodium by 400 mg per person (on average) this will save 28,000 deaths and $7 billion a year,” Kuklina said. “Even if you are young and do not have high blood pressure keeping your sodium low will prevent having hypertension as you age.”

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2 Responses to Sodium seeps into American’s daily diet

  1. Pingback: Wacky Salt-to-Potassium Ratio Doubles Heart Disease Deaths: Heart Month — Day 27 – Huffington Post | Health News

  2. msatin

    February 29, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    Julissa,

    You make it sound like we are now eating more salt than ever before because of processed foods. That is simply not the fact. The only verifiable records of our salt consumption in the last 200 years are from military archives where the rations for soldiers and prisoners of war are kept. They state from that from the War of 1812 until the end of WWII we consumed between 18-20 g of salt per day, double what we now eat. The reason is because all our foods were preserved with salt. In the 10 years after WWII, our salt consumption dropped by half to about 9 g per day and has remained that way until now. The reason is that refrigeration took over the role of preservation from salt.
    So, we dropped our salt from 18 g down to 9 g without the intervention of the FDA, the CDC, CSPI or any other advocacy group simply because we gravitated to a fresher food supply. But, we never went below 9 g because our bodies tell us that this is where we ought to be – and all the peer-review studies in the last two years have confirmed this to be the case, regardless of what CDC has said. The current Director of the CDC was former NYC Health Commissioner who made his name on a national salt restriction program. There does not appear to be any amount of peer-reviewed medical evidence that will ever make the CDC change their stance simply because it proves they may be incorrect. It was the same situation with hormone replacement therapy for women – it seems that people have to get sick in great numbers before the public health establishment changes its tune.
    The most recent publication by Maillot and Drewnowski in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine proves beyond any doubt that the current salt recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines are wrong and dangerous to follow – unfortunately, ambitious, often politically-motivated policy-makers do not seem to care much about the people they have sworn to protect.

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