A new global organization has launched a campaign to reduce the amount of salt in the human diet. The World Action on Salt and Health, known as WASH, is targeting sodium intake to lower blood pressure of people around the world.
High blood pressure is the single largest cause of cardiovascular disease and every year accounts for 2.6 million preventable stroke and heart attack deaths. The new organization is encouraging people to reduce their consumption of salt to less than 5 grams per day, or half the amount in a typical daily diet in industrialized countries.
Stephen Havas, Vice President of the American Medical Association and a WASH spokesman, says sodium content in the same food product can vary from country to country. Havas says WASH is calling for a more uniform standard. "They are recommending also that processed foods, which can vary from country to country, all move towards lower levels," "he says. "In terms of the developing world, there the major source of exposure thus far has been salt that people are adding when cooking and the recommendation is for the public there to start using less and less salt."
Havas says the salt that occurs naturally in foods is enough for good health. "In terms of how much is dangerous, I would say anything above roughly half a teaspoon [1 gram] a day becomes progressively more unsafe."
Havas says consumers must monitor what foods they buy and how they cook them. He says the food industry must also take responsibility to lower sodium in their products. If they don't, he advises, governments must step in with regulatory measures that protect public health.
The World Action on Salt and Health launched its campaign this month. The World Health Organization is expected to release its recommendations by late November.