March 3, 2008
Are Americans Eating Too Much Salt?
The human body needs salt to function. Sodium is the main component of the body’s extracellular fluids, and it helps carry nutrients into the cells. Sodium also helps regulate other body functions, such as blood pressure and fluid volume, and sodium works on the lining of blood vessels to keep the pressure balance normal. But, Alicia Moag-Stahlberg, a research nutritionist at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, says what most people don’t realize is that the amount of salt we actually need “is minor.” The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., has determined that the recommended safe minimum daily amount is about 500 milligrams of sodium with an upper limit of 2,400 milligrams. But, the council has said that lowering sodium intake to 1,800 milligrams would probably be healthier.
Research has shown that most Americans consume two- to three-times the amount of sodium that is healthy for the human body, and an estimated 75 percent to 80 percent of that daily intake is coming from processed foods, particularly frozen and prepared foods and also fast foods and foods served at restaurants. (Source: American Medical Association)