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Scientists push to lower hidden sodium in food

"Nobody ever said, 'Do you want that salt in your food?' Somebody put it there for you." Being overweight and inactive are the major culprits for high blood pressure, but too much salt plays a role, too. The 50 million Americans with hypertension are advised to eat a low-sodium diet, about 1,500 milligrams a day.
Now public health specialists are pressuring food manufacturers and restaurants to cut the salt, because too much sodium// is bad for your blood pressure -- and high blood pressure hurts your heart, brain and kidneys.

Reduced-sodium alternatives are rare in grocery aisles. Manufacturers argue it's hard to change the recipe but keep the taste.

On one thing do food makers and health critics agree: Making our food supply less salty will require consumer demand, and so far that has focused mostly on trimming the fat. There's only so much people can worry about when it comes to food, But the fact is high blood pressure rates are going up, the evidence that salt raises blood pressure has only gotten stronger, and people need to hear that message."

For healthy people, the government recommends no more than 2,400 mg of sodium daily, the equivalent of a heaping teaspoon of salt. But the average American eats over 4,000 mg a day -- three-quarters of it from processed food and restaurant meals.

Time-crunched families depend on the convenience of processed foods, so the American Public Health Association, backed by dozens of other health and medical groups, issued a challenge to the industry: Cut in half the sodium in those foods over the next 10 years.

Sodium is used in preserving certain foods, and to pump up other flavors. But "taste is the No. 1 reason people buy foods" -- and low-sodium brands generally have not sold well.

Food companies say they are hunting ways to cut the sodium. Meanwhile, sensible sodium means closely checking food labels. "It's of concern for everybody," Doctors says. "You don' t want to wait until your blood pressure gets into the high range."

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