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U.S. Diet Still Has Too Much Salt, CDC Warns

THURSDAY, Oct. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Most Americans consume too much sodium, and new strategies and stronger efforts are needed to reduce the amount of dietary salt, according to a new study by federal government researchers.

High levels of sodium consumption are associated with increased risk of high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke, experts warn.

In general, people aged 2 years and older should limit daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg), according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

People who would benefit from reducing their sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg per day include those aged 51 years and older, blacks and anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. These groups account for 47.6 percent of all Americans aged 2 and older and the majority of adults.

But the new analysis of 2005-2008 data from nearly 19,000 participants in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that 98.6 percent of Americans who should reduce their daily sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams, and 88.2 percent of those who should reduce their intake to less than 2,300 mg per day, consume more than those amounts.

The study is published in the Oct. 21 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most of the sodium Americans consume does not come from the salt shaker. About 75 percent of the sodium in the typical American diet is added to commercial foods during processing or during preparation of restaurant foods. Only about 25 percent occurs naturally or is added at the table or in cooking by the consumer, the CDC report explained.

This means that new population-based strategies and increased public health efforts will be required to meet the sodium targets in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the researchers said.

The study authors pointed to an effort in the United Kingdom to show that population-level strategies can work. There, a food manufacturer-government partnership that established voluntary maximum levels of sodium in certain processed foods led to a 9.5 percent reduction in sodium intake over 7 to 8 years, they said.

In the United States, a similar reduction in sodium intake would save an estimated $4 billion in health care costs a year and $32.1 billion over the lifetime of adults aged 40 to 85, the researchers said.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers tips to reduce sodium in your diet.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, Oct. 20, 2011

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