January 14, 2011

AHA Calls For Reduction In Salt Consumption

The American Heart Association (AHA) on Thursday issued a call for action from the general public, health officials, the food industry and the government to intensify efforts to reduce the amount of sodium Americans consume on a daily basis.

In a report, published in "ËœCirculation: Journal of the American Heart Association,' the AHA released the science behind their recommendation for the general population, which is to consume no more than 1500 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day due to the harmful effects it has -- elevated blood pressure and increased risk of stroke, heart attacks and kidney disease. Approximately 90 percent of all Americans will develop elevated blood pressure over their lifetime.

Average sodium consumption is currently more than twice the recommended upper limit of 1,500 mg per day, with 77 percent of that consumption coming from packaged, processed and restaurant foods.

"Even a modest decline in intake "“ say 400 mg per day "“would produce benefits that are substantial and warrant implementation," say the authors of the report.

The 2005 US Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended a sodium intake limit of 2,300 mg per day, which many health experts say is over the limit for most Americans. Earlier this year, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommended to the secretaries of the US Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that the goal should be reduced to 1,500 mg per day for the general population.

The advisory committee, who authored the report, consists of leading scientists who reviewed the most recent scientific studies and created a set of recommendations that are being reviewed by the secretaries.

The AHA recently lowered their recommendation to no more than 1,500 mg per day of sodium for the general public, after a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that a majority of the American population have high blood pressure or is at high risk of developing it.

The authors of the report point to one recent study that suggests a national effort to reduce sodium intake by 1,200 mg per day should reduce the health burdens related to heart disease in addition to reducing costs by up to $24 billion per year.

"Americans deserve the opportunity to choose how much sodium is in the food they eat. By supporting measures that will reduce sodium in the overall food supply, we are giving consumers freedom to select foods that could allow them to meet sodium recommendations and improve their ideal cardiovascular health," said Ralph Sacco, M.D., president of the American Heart Association.

The AHA encourages more robust sodium criteria in school nutrition standards, foods advertised and marketed to children and foods purchased by employers or government feeding programs. It also pushes for the secretaries of DHHS and USDA to adopt the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommendations.

The AHA is also in favor of improved food labeling that would help consumers better understand how much sodium (salt) is in their diet. It also supports consumer education in restaurants to help consumers choose lower-sodium options.


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