What is Salt?
Salt is mainly composed of two minerals, sodium and chloride, which have various functions in the body. It is found naturally in most foods and is widely used to improve flavour.
The essential minerals in salt act as important electrolytes in the body. They help with fluid balance, nerve transmission and muscle function.
Some amount of salt is naturally found in most foods. It’s also frequently added to foods in order to improve flavour.
Salt and sodium are words used interchangeable in the food industry as the by product of salt is sodium and Chloride.
Salt/Sodium intake Recommendation:
The world health Organization (WHO), recommends an intake of less than 2g Sodium / day (2000mg Sodium) which is equivalent to 5g/day salt (1 teaspoon of salt = 4-5 g salt)
Scientific evidence shows that reducing intake to less than 2g/day is more beneficial for high blood pressure as compared to reducing salt intake but still consuming more than 2g/day
“WHO recommends a reduction in sodium intake to reduce blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and coronary heart disease in adults (strong recommendation1). WHO recommends a reduction to <2 g/day sodium (5 g/day salt) in adults (strong recommendation). WHO recommends a reduction in sodium intake to control2 blood pressure in children (strong recommendation). The recommended maximum level of intake of 2 g/day sodium in adults should be adjusted downward based on the energy requirements of children relative to those of adults.
These recommendations apply to all individuals, with or without hypertension (including pregnant and lactating women), except for individuals with illnesses or taking drug therapy that may lead to hyponatraemia or acute build-up of body water, or require dietitian-supervised diets (e.g. patients with heart failure and those with type 1 diabetes).
Health Dangers of high Salt Intake;
High sodium intake has been associated with several Non-Communicable Diseases:
- Cardiovascular disease
Hypertension is (high blood pressure) which is considered a major risk for cardiovascular disease, especially heart attack and stroke. Suboptimal systolic blood pressure (>115 mmHg) is estimated to contribute to 49% of all coronary heart disease and 62% of all stroke. In Africa and South Africa included the prevalence of hypertension has dramatically increased over the years where 1 in 3 adults have hypertension. Africa is has very hypertension rate globally. More than half of the countries in Africa are affected by hypertension and it affects more men than women.
Risk factors of Hypertension:
- High salt intake
- Genetic make-up
- High Alcohol consumption
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Being overweight / obesity – In Africa, obesity is seen more in women compared to men
5 Practical household to reduce salt intake:
- Once food is cooked, do not add table salt. Add minimal salt to your cooking (Just a pinch, literally)
- Avoid the use of stock cubes, packet soups, meat spices in your food
- Choose a variety of herbs and spices to provide flavour and taste to your food
- Be ware of “lite” food products they may be lower calories and lower sugar but higher sodium
- Read your food labels: choose foods with 120mg or less Sodium per 100g
1.WHO. Global health risks: Mortality and burden of disease attributable to selected major risks. Geneva, World Health Organization (WHO), 2009
2. WHO. Preventing chronic disease: a vital investment. Geneva, World Health Organization (WHO), 2005
3. Murray CJ, Lauer JA, Hutubessy RC et al. Effectiveness and costs of interventions to lower systolic blood pressure and cholesterol: a global and regional analysis on reduction of cardiovascular-disease risk. Lancet, 2003, 361(9359):717–725 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12620735).
4. WHO. Prevention of recurrent heart attacks and strokes in low and middle income populations: Evidence-based recommendations for policy makers and health professionals. Geneva, World Health Organization (WHO), 2003 (http://www.who.int/cardiovascular_diseases/resources/pub0402/en/).
Yours in health