Nearly half of the American population has some type of cardiovascular disease, with many not being aware of the health risk. Cardiovascular disease is comprised of coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke and high blood pressure. Consuming high levels of sodium can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
In an effort to help curb sodium intake, in October 2021, the FDA lowered targets for sodium in processed, packaged, and prepared foods. While the amount decreased, it is still above the recommended amount, with the goal being to reduce sodium intake over a period of 2.5 years. The objective was to decrease daily intake from the average 3,400 mg down to 2,300 mg per day for people ages 14 and older.
Then FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock and FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition director Susan Mayne explained in a statement, “. . .we know that even these modest reductions—made slowly over the next few years—will substantially decrease diet-related diseases, make for a healthier population overall and lower the burden of health care costs in this country.” While the new FDA recommendations are above the ideal amount, the American Heart Association also supports the reduction, stating that even a 1,000mg reduction can significantly improve blood pressure and heart health.
A new report shares that of the 194 member states of WHO (World Health Organization), about 73 percent lack comprehensive and mandatory sodium reduction policies. This information was released in conjunction with a report that shows countries are behind in an agreement made by WHO members to reduce global sodium intake by 30% by 2025.
WHO graded member states on a variety of factors:
- Having a national policy commitment to reduce salt intake
- Voluntary measures implemented to reduce sodium in the food supply or encourage consumers to make healthier food choices
- Mandatory measures implemented to reduce sodium and use a nutrient profile model to effectively implement measures
- Mandatory declaration of sodium on all pre-packaged food.
About 22 percent of countries scored a 3 out of 4 on these recommended policies, including the U.S.
“This important report demonstrates that countries must work urgently to implement ambitious, mandatory, government-led sodium reduction policies to meet the global target of reducing salt consumption by 2025,” said Tom Frieden, president and CEO of the nonprofit Resolve to Save Lives and a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
How does sodium impact the body?
Sodium helps the body in a variety of ways, including maintaining a balance of water and minerals, helps muscles relax and contract, and helps conduct nerve impulses. However, the amount needed to help these processes is very little, and the amount Americans consume, roughly 1.5 teaspoons per day, is far more than is required (roughly 500mg). Some issues that may result from prolonged, excess sodium intake include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Calcium losses (which can increase risk of osteoporosis)
In addition to increased risk of these issues, there is evidence that excessive sodium intake may also contribute to oxidative stress, which is when there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. Oxidative stress has been linked to damaged proteins, cells, and DNA, and may increase the risk of diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
You can read more about the benefit of even slight reduction of sodium intake, as well as some easy, low-sodium recipes, low-sodium snacks, and easy ways to cut sodium intake.