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Using Too Much Salt Is Common in U.S., CDC Says

Report finds that average sodium intake far exceeds recommendations, raising health risks,,

THURSDAY, March 26 (HealthDay News) -- The average American consumes far more salt each day than is considered healthy, a new government report finds.

Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that people, on average -- including people with high blood pressure, blacks, and middle-age and older adults -- take in 3,436 milligrams a day of sodium. Most of those people -- 69 percent -- should consume no more than 1,500 mg daily, according to the report.

The recommended amount in the government's latest dietary guidelines, published in 2005, for adults in general is less than 2,300 mg (about 1 teaspoon) of sodium a day, still a third less than the average person's consumption.

The findings, which came from an analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, were published in the CDC's March 27 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"It's important for people to eat less salt," Dr. Darwin R. Labarthe, director of the CDC's Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, said in a news release. "People who adopt a heart healthy eating pattern that includes a diet low in sodium and rich in potassium and calcium can improve their blood pressure. Reducing sodium intake can prevent or delay increases in blood pressure for everyone. People need to know their recommended daily sodium limit and take action to reduce sodium intake."

Most of the sodium consumed by Americans comes from packaged, processed and restaurant foods. A diet high in sodium increases the risk of high blood pressure -- a major cause of heart disease and stroke, the first and third leading causes of death, respectively, in the country. About 16 million people in the United States have heart disease, and 5.8 million have had a stroke.

To reduce sodium intake, the CDC recommends that people:

  • Choose such foods as fresh fruits and vegetables when eating out,
  • Ask that food be prepared without salt,
  • Read the nutrition label of foods before purchasing them.

A number of federal agencies are working with major food manufacturers and chain restaurants to reduce sodium levels in food, the CDC said.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers advice on how to reduce sodium intake.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCES: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, March 26, 2009; March 27, 2009, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

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