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High Salt Levels Common in Many Foods

Cereals, licorice, pancakes, among other products, home to sodium, study says

TUESDAY, Dec. 2 (HealthDay News) -- There can be plenty of sodium -- commonly known as salt -- in foods that seem to be health-friendly, and shoppers should know that lower-fat foods can have much more sodium than full-fat products.

That's the finding of a report published online Monday by Consumer Reports magazine.

Researchers analyzed 37 common supermarket items and found large amounts of sodium in unexpected places, including some products that don't even taste salty. For example: a cup of Kellogg's Raisin Brain cereal contains 350 milligrams of sodium; a half-cup of Friendship 1 percent low-fat cottage cheese has 360 milligrams of sodium; and a single Pepperidge Farm Whole Grain White Bagel has 440 milligrams of sodium.

Here are some other findings from the report:

  • Four strands of Twizzlers Black Licorice Twists have 200 milligrams of sodium, while four strands of Twizzlers Strawberry Licorice have 115 milligrams.
  • Prego Heart Smart Traditional Italian Sauce has 430 milligrams of sodium per half cup. The product has an American Heart Association logo on the label, which means that saturated fat and cholesterol are restricted, but not that it's low in sodium.
  • Each pancake made, as directed, with Aunt Jemima Original Pancake and Waffle Mix contains 200 milligrams of sodium.
  • One cup of Heart Healthy V8 vegetable juice has 480 milligrams of sodium.
  • Some seemingly healthy fast food can contain high levels of sodium. For example, McDonald's Premium Caesar Salad with grilled chicken has about 890 milligrams of sodium, without dressing. A large order of fries has 350 milligrams of sodium.

"Our analysis found that lower-fat products might be higher in sodium. That's in part because when fat is taken out of full-fat foods, sodium is sometimes used to compensate for flavor," Jamie Hirsh, associate health editor at Consumer Reports, said in a news release.

Healthy adults should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day (the amount in one teaspoon of table salt), according to dietary guidelines. Middle-aged and older people, those with high blood pressure, and black Americans should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day. But, the average American consumes 2,900 to 4,300 milligrams a day, the study authors said.

A high-sodium diet can increase the risk of high blood pressure (which can lead to heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease) and also increase the risk of asthma, kidney stones, osteoporosis and stomach cancer. A 50 percent reduction in Americans' dietary sodium intake could save 150,000 lives a year, according to the American Medical Association.

"On average, Americans consume far more sodium than the recommended daily limit. Unfortunately, cutting back isn't easy because of the high levels of sodium in the many processed and prepared foods that Americans eat on a regular basis," Hirsh said.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers advice on how to lower the amount of sodium in your diet.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Consumer Reports, news release, Dec. 1, 2008

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