Many Australian consumers are aware of the risk of high blood pressure due to excess salt intake, but a new study indicates they may still have trouble interpreting labelling info that lists sodium rather than salt.
Excess salt intake (sodium chloride) has been consistently linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and stroke.
The World Health Organization recommends adults consume no more than 5g of salt per day. Australia’s own National Heart Foundation recommends that individuals reduce their sodium intake to less than 6g per day.
A 1987 to 1995 study conducted by Dr. Nancy Cook (BMJ, 2007; 334: 885), looked at 744 patients who had received 18-48 months of comprehensive education and counselling on reducing their sodium intake.
Dr Cook’s subsequent post-research 10 year evaluation study concluded that sodium reduction, previously shown to lower blood pressure, may also reduce long-term risk of cardiovascular events.
Research also shows that shoppers regularly read food labels. However, according to Food Standards Australia/New Zealand, they still consistently request more information about exactly what those food labels mean.
In November 2011 a “Traffic Light” labelling system, supported by the Australian Medical Association, was presented for approval.
Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said there was “currently not enough evidence to demonstrate that any form of front-of-pack labelling, including traffic light labelling, would provide Australians with the nutritional information they need to make informed choices”.
Food labels are a wealth of information, so start looking at them on a regular basis to understand how much salt (sodium chloride), MSG, baking soda, baking powder (and more) goes into your food!
The more practice you get reading food labels, the better you’ll become at using them as a tool to plan a healthy, balanced diet.
Other sodium compounds include:
• Disodium phosphate: Found in some quick-cooking cereals and processed cheeses.
• Sodium alginate: Used in many chocolate milks and ice creams to make a smooth mixture.
• Sodium benzoate: Used as a preservative in many condiments such as relishes, sauces and salad dressings.
• Sodium hydroxide: Used in food processing to soften and loosen skins of ripe olives and certain fruits and vegetables.
• Sodium nitrite: Used in cured meats and sausages.
• Sodium propionate: Used in pasteurized cheese and in some breads and cakes to inhibit growth of molds.
• Sodium sulfite: Used to bleach certain fruits such as maraschino cherries and glazed or crystallized fruits that are to be artificially colored; also used as a preservative in some dried fruits such as prunes.
Achieving a low salt intake with the present food supply is difficult as 80% of our intake comes from salt added to food during processing.
Many of the numerous processed/convenience foods now available contain very high salt levels that consumers can’t avoid, and it’s clear that large changes are needed – reducing the levels of salt in our food supply should be the first line of defense in the fight against cardiovascular disease.