How We Eat: The Salty Truth

High sodium intake prevalent among majority of Americans, CDC says

(RxWiki News) Are you eating too much salt? According to new evidence, it's very likely.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that more than 90 percent of kids and 89 percent of adults age 19 or older eat more salt than recommended for a healthy diet — and that's not including salt added at the table.

The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend people 14 and older consume less than 2,300 milligrams of salt per day. Even less is recommended for younger children. That's because excess salt intake has been tied to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and other health problems.

According to the CDC, about 1 in 3 US adults has high blood pressure. Only about half have it under control. Heart disease, stroke and related diseases are also estimated to cause more than 800,000 deaths each year in the US.

"The finding that 9 of 10 adults and children still consume too much salt is alarming," said CDC Director Tom R. Frieden, MD, MPH, in a press release. "The evidence is clear: too much sodium in our foods leads to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Reducing sodium in manufactured and restaurant foods will give consumers more choice and save lives."

For this report, researchers used data from the 2009-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to look at the dietary habits of nearly 15,000 Americans.

The results showed that nearly all Americans — regardless of age, race, gender or whether they had high blood pressure — consumed more salt than they should. Some differences were seen between certain groups, however.

A larger proportion of men (98 percent) and white adults (90 percent) consumed too much salt compared to women and black adults, at 80 and 85 percent, respectively.

Among people at higher risk of heart disease or stroke — such as those age 51 or older, black patients and those with high blood pressure — more than 3 in 4 consumed too much salt.

Adults with high blood pressure consumed slightly less salt than other adults, but 86 percent still consumed too much.

The new findings also showed how little US salt consumption has changed in recent years. According to the report, more than three quarters of salt in the American diet is still estimated to come from processed and restaurant food.

"Sodium reduction is a key part of preventing heart disease and stroke," said Sandra Jackson, an epidemiologist in the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, in a press release. "Reducing sodium is an achievable and effective strategy to improve heart health for everyone, but it’s going to take all of us working together to make it possible."

This report was published Jan. 8 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Review Date: 
January 8, 2016