Salt intake falls but public must still monitor diets, health experts say

Salt can cause high blood pressure, which raises the risk of heart disease and stroke 

Kashmira Gander
Wednesday 23 March 2016 18:33 GMT

Health experts are urging the public to check the level of salt in the food they consume, as adults eat more than a third of their recommended daily ammount.

While the levels of sodium intake have decreased in recent years, adults consume on average eight grams of salt every day which is two grams higher than the recommended limit, according to new figures from Public Health England (PHE).

Consuming too much salt can raise the blood pressure which increases a person's risk of heart disease and stroke.

A push to reduce salt intake has proved successful, as intake has fallen by 11 per cent since 2005/2006.

This is partly due to manufacturers gradually reformulating food to reduce the population’s intake. Between 2000/2001 and 2011, the salt content in food fell by 15 per cent.

Restaurants, cafes and takeaways have an important part to play, PHE stressed, as establishments can cut the amount of salt in their food.

Dr Alison Tedstone, Director of diet, nutrition and obesity at PHE’s Health and Wellbeing Directorate, said: “The majority of the salt we eat is in everyday foods so it's important to check labels and choose lower salt options.

"Many manufacturers and retailers have significantly reduced the salt levels in everyday foods. However, more needs to be done, especially by restaurants, cafes and takeaways."

Commenting on the figures, Izzi Seccombe, community and well-being spokeswoman for the Local Government Association, said: ”Too much salt can kill, and thousands of deaths from salt-related health issues like high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks could be saved if we took action to reduce oursalt consumption, along with hundreds of millions of pounds to the public health purse."

The Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash) urged the Government to set up an independent agency for nutrition.

Cash chairman Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London, said: “This is a tragedy for public health. Most of the foods that it [the food industry] currently provides are very high in salt, fat and sugars, causing strokes, heart failure and heart attacks, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cancer.

“David Cameron must take charge and set up robust mechanisms to control the food industry, with regulated targets for salt, sugar and fat. Without this, many more thousands of people will die and suffer unnecessarily, and it will be the final nail in an almost bankrupt NHS.”

The warning comes as the health spotlight has shifted towards raising awareness about the damaging effects of sugar, as George Osborne has introduced a tax on soft drinks companies.

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