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Have we managed to tackle excessive salt consumption?

Posted on 02 August 2016 by Catherine Fenton, Researcher .
Tags: NDNS, National Diet and Nutrition Survey, Northern Ireland, salt

There is an established relationship between high salt intake and the risk of high blood pressure and evidence has shown that a number of health conditions are caused by a high salt diet. As a result, salt consumption is now recognised by the World Health Organization as a public health priority and has set targets to decrease sodium intake across the world.

Salt Shaker Credit Karyn Christner Flickr

Recent data shows a steady fall in average salt consumption for adults in the UK - we’re eating 11% less salt than we did in 2006.

But let’s not get complacent. According to the latest results on salt intake in Northern Ireland, we are continuing to eat too much of the white stuff. New data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) reveals that the average salt intake for adults aged 19 to 64 years in Northern Ireland is 8.6g per day: 43% more than the 6g maximum daily intake recommended by the government.

So, how can we eat less?

Before you throw out your salt shakers, it’s worth noting that as much as 75% of our salt intake comes not from salt we add but from salt that is already in the food we eat, with packaged and processed foods the main culprits. So although we are responsible for ensuring how much salt we add at the dinner table, without a real change in our relationship with pre-prepared food and ready meals we will not significantly decrease the amount of salt we eat.

The food industry has made substantial efforts to try and cut back the use of sodium, with many stakeholders responding to the Food Standard Agency’s voluntary salt reduction targets. However, despite this, the average daily salt consumption within the UK is still over 8g/day. With many meals eaten outside the home, the catering sector has a vital role to play in helping the UK reach the recommended daily salt target. It’s also vital that consumers are made aware of the adverse health effects of increased salt consumption and provided with extra information on what we can all do to decrease our intake.

As these recent results from NDNS show, efforts to reduce sodium consumption in the UK have been relatively successful, but there’s still a long way to go to tackle this public health priority and to reduce our salt consumption to under 6g a day.


Image credit: Karyn Christner, Flickr

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