Massive efforts needed to reduce intake of table salt
A World Health Organization global report on sodium intake reduction shows that the planet is off-track to achieve its worldwide target of reducing by 30 percent consumption of the nutrient by 2025.
Sodium is an essential nutrient but increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and premature death when eaten in excess, with its main source being table salt (sodium chloride), but it is also in other condiments such as sodium glutamate.
The report, the first of its kind, shows that mandatory sodium reduction policies protect only three percent of the world’s population, and 73 percent of the 194 WHO member states lack the full range of implementation of such policies.
“This report shows that most countries are yet to adopt any mandatory sodium reduction policies, leaving their people at risk of heart attack, stroke, and other health problems,” WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said.
The global average salt intake is estimated to be 10.8 grams daily, more than double the WHO recommendation of less than five grams of salt per day or one teaspoon.
The report says that eating too much salt makes it the top risk factor for diet and nutrition-related deaths.
More evidence is emerging documenting links between high sodium intake and increased risk of other health conditions such as gastric cancer, obesity, osteoporosis, and kidney disease.
Implementing highly cost-effective sodium reduction policies could save an estimated seven million lives globally by 2030, says the report.
Such policies can ease the path to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal target of reducing deaths from noncommunicable diseases.
However, today, only Brazil, Chile, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Uruguay have a comprehensive package of recommended policies to reduce sodium intake.
“WHO calls on all countries to implement the ‘Best Buys’ for sodium reduction, and on manufacturers to implement the WHO benchmarks for sodium content in food,” said Tedros in a statement.
A comprehensive approach to sodium reduction includes mandatory policies and WHO’s “best buy” interventions related to sodium, which significantly contribute to preventing non-communicable diseases.
WHO says these include reformulating foods to contain less salt and setting targets for sodium in foods and meals.
Another action that can be taken is establishing public food procurement policies to limit salt or sodium-rich foods in public institutions such as hospitals, schools, workplaces, and nursing homes.
WHO encourages front-of-package labeling that helps consumers select products lower in sodium, behavior change communication, and mass media campaigns to reduce salt/sodium consumption. – PNA