Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Americans eat way too much salt, mostly from 25 commonly consumed foods; cutting back reduces risk of high blood pressure

Americans eat too much salt, and a new study found that most of it comes from 25 commonly consumed foods. The top five culprits are bread, pizza, sandwiches, cold cuts and other cured meats, and soup. Salty snacks came in seventh, behind burritos and tacos, says the study.

Salt helps the body maintain its fluid balance, but too much of it increases the risk for high blood pressure, which then increases the risk for heart attack and stroke. Thirty-nine percent of Kentucky adults have high blood pressure and the state ranks 47th for heart disease, according to America's Health Rankings.
Hypertension in Kentucky adults, 2013-2015 (Map and chart from www.KentuckyHealthFacts.org)
The study found that in 2013-14, Americans ate about 3,400 mg of salt daily, far exceeding the Healthy People 2020 goal of 2.300 mg and the "ideal limit" of 1,500 mg recommended by the American Heart Association.

"If everyone reduced the amount of sodium in their diet by 1,200 mg per day, up to 99,000 heart attacks and 66,000 strokes could be prevented in the United States every year," according to the CDC.

Data for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study comes from the 2013-14 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. It only measured salt consumed in foods and did not take into account any salt added at the table. One teaspoon of table salt has 2,300 mg of sodium.

The study found that most dietary salt (61 percent) comes from packaged, processed and restaurant foods, the report said.

While most foods have a moderate amount of salt, the problem is that they are eaten all day long, Zerleen Quader, lead researcher, told Steven Reinberg of HealthDay.

"When cooking at home, use fresh herbs and other substitutes for salt. When eating out, you can ask for meals with lower salt," she said, adding that it's important to read food labels, and to choose the lowest salt option available. She also said the food industry needs to lower the amount of salt it adds to its products.

The study found that 44 percent of the salt people eat comes from just 10 foods and 70 percent of salt in the diet comes from 25 foods. Some other foods in the top 25 include bacon, casserole type dishes, salad dressing, French fries and cereal

Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center in New York City, said that processed foods not only raise blood pressure, but may also increase the risk for cancer, noting that the World Health Organization classifies processed meats, like bologna, ham, bacon, sausages and hot dogs, as carcinogens.

"Parents need to understand that feeding hot dogs, fries, and ham and cheese sandwiches to their kids (and themselves) is significantly increasing their risk for certain cancers, hypertension and heart disease," Heller told Reinberg.

The CDC offers tips for reducing salt intake:
  • Choose a heart-healthy diet like the "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension," diet (DASH). Click here for more details.
  • Buy fresh, frozen or no salt canned vegetables
  • Use fresh meats, rather than canned or processed meats
  • Read labels, choose product with lowest sodium content
  • If you eat two servings, then account for two servings of salt
  • Limit sauces, mixes and "instant" product"
  • Choose spices and seasonings that do not list sodium on their label
When eating out:
  • Choose restaurants that offer low-sodium options
  • Ask server if sodium information is available
  • Request that no salt be added to your food
  • Ask for salad dressings and sauces on the side

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