Massive Efforts Needed to Reduce Salt Intake, WHO Says

The World Health Organization’s report estimates that implementing sodium reduction policies could save 7 million lives globally by 2030.

The world is off-track on achieving its goal to reduce sodium intake by 30% by 2025, according to the WHO’s Global report on sodium intake reduction, which reveals that only 5% of the member states are implementing "mandatory and comprehensive" reduction policies.

Sodium is an essential nutrient necessary to maintain a balance of body fluids and ensure the function of muscles and nerves. However, excessive sodium intake is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and premature death.

The main source of sodium is table salt (sodium chloride). While the WHO recommends consuming less than 5g (under a tablespoon) of sodium a day, the global average salt intake is estimated to be more than double — 10.8 grams per day.

"This report shows that most countries are yet to adopt any mandatory sodium reduction policies, leaving their people at risk of heart attack, stroke, and other health problems. WHO calls on all countries to implement the 'Best Buys' for sodium reduction, and on manufacturers to implement the WHO benchmarks for sodium content in food," says Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Ph.D., WHO Director-General.

The WHO’s four "best buy" interventions include:

  • Reformulating foods to contain less salt, and setting targets for the amount of sodium in foods and meals.
  • Establishing public food procurement policies to limit salt or sodium-rich foods in public institutions such as hospitals, schools, workplaces, and nursing homes.
  • Front-of-package labeling that helps consumers select products lower in sodium.
  • Behavior change communication and mass media campaigns to reduce salt/sodium consumption.

More than 70% of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods, such as canned soups or frozen dinners, and restaurant meals, making it harder to limit the intake, according to the American Heart Association.

Usually listed as “salt," "soda," and "sodium" on the nutrition labels, the nutrient may come in different forms and names, including disodium guanylate (GMP), Himalayan pink salt, and kosher salt.

About 90% of Americans two years old or older consume too much sodium, the CDC data shows. The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming less than 2.3 grams of sodium daily.

While most people eat more salt than the WHO recommends, implementing sodium reduction policies is crucial to high blood pressure, stroke, and other health problems.


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