May 11, 2009

Many restaurant meals heavy on salt

Consuming 4,000 milligrams or more of sodium in a single meal -- many restaurant meals exceed this amount -- can present a heart risk, U.S. food advocates say.

Researchers at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington examined 17 chains and found 85 out of 102 meals had more than one day's worth of sodium, and some had more than four days' worth, including:

-- Red Lobster Admirals' Feast with Caesar Salad, creamy lobster topped mashed potato, cheddar bay biscuit and lemonade: 7,106 mg of sodium.

-- Chili's Buffalo Chicken Fajitas and Dr. Pepper: 6,916 mg sodium.

-- Olive Garden Tour of Italy lasagna with a bread stick, salad with house dressing and coca-cola: 6,176 mg sodium.

The federal government advises people with high blood pressure, African-Americans and those middle-age and older, should consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium daily, others should consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day and children ages 4-8 should consume no more than 1,200 mg of sodium per day.

Many elderly eat frequently at these restaurants because of convenience and cost, Dr. Mel Daly of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said in a statement.

But the high sodium levels in many of these meals can lead to a spike in blood pressure and even precipitate heart failure in some individuals.