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Americans' Salt Intake Unchanged Over 50 Years
Date:10/20/2010

By Julia Vantine
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Americans still consume more salt than they should, despite decades of warnings linking high-salt diets with an increase in blood pressure and a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

A new Harvard study finds salt intake is about the same today as it was nearly 50 years ago, an amount well above recommended guidelines, noted Dr. Adam M. Bernstein, the study's lead author.

Bernstein, a research fellow in the Harvard School of Public Health's department of nutrition, and colleague Dr. Walter C. Willett analyzed 38 studies, published between 1957 and 2003, that reported the amount of salt that the more than 26,000 participants passed in their urine. This test is the most reliable estimate of salt intake.

The researchers thought they would find that salt intake had increased over time because Americans eat more processed foods today than in 1957. But decade after decade, people consistently consumed about 3,700 milligrams of sodium a day, the data showed. Current sodium guidelines advise up to 2,300 milligrams (about one teaspoon) a day for adults, and 1,500 milligrams for those who have or are at risk for high blood pressure.

The study appears in the November issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Since the 1980s, the U.S. government has recommended cutting back on salt in order to reduce blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risk. But the ongoing U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which provides a snapshot of Americans' health and nutrition status every two years, regularly suggests that Americans consume more salt now than they did 20 or 30 years ago, Bernstein said. However, those data are based in part on survey participants recalling what they ate, rather than on the more accurate urine samples.

The study also noted that although Americans' salt intake has re
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