Experts Push for Salt Regulation

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By Cile Waller

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Solutions to the problem of excess salt consumption in the United States need to be put into practice as soon as possible, experts say, and those strategies need to involve the government and food industry. Experts met at the 7th National Forum for Heart Disease & Stroke to push forward with changes at both levels.

The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which were established in 2005, recommend that Americans consume no more than 2,300 mg/day of sodium while people with high blood pressure consume no more than 1,500 mg/day. The Guidelines also report about 75 percent of total salt intake is derived from salt added to processed food.

Despite these guidelines, the average American consumes 3,375 mg of salt each day, much of this from processed foods. Although the FDA is examining the current dietary guidelines to figure out how to reduce salt intake throughout the country, some experts say guidelines for consumers to follow -- or voluntary action -- isn't enough.

"Government officials and industry have talked about voluntary action since the early 1980s," Michael Jacobson, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told Ivanhoe. "We're consuming as much salt as we always have, so maybe we should learn from that and try a different approach. That approach is regulation."

"The real strategy is going to engage industry to start making changes," Lawrence Appel, M.D., Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology and International Health at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, told Ivanhoe. "We're talking about hundreds of thousands of strokes that are prevented in the United States and a roughly similar number of heart attacks through a very inexpensive strategy."

That strategy, experts hope, will involve government regulation to set limits on the sodium content of packaged foods or a limit on the amount of salt poured into the food supply each year.

Research shows excess salt consumption is responsible for up to 2.5 million deaths worldwide every year. It has been suggested that excess salt intake can cause gastric cancer and increase the risk of osteoporosis.

SOURCE: Ivanhoe interviews with Lawrence Appel, M.D., and Michael Jacobson, Ph.D.; presented at the 7th National Forum for Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention, March 17-20, 2009, Washington, D.C.

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