New Report Summarizes Discussion to Reduce Sodium Intake and Decrease Sodium in Food Supply

Last year, the American Heart Association (AHA) convened a two-day interactive forum to discuss the current status and future implications of reducing sodium in the nation's food supply. With more than 120 participating stakeholders in food research and development, food manufacturing and retail, restaurant and food service operations, regulatory and legislative activities, public health initiatives, health care, and other fields, numerous presentations, panel discussions, and scientific sessions have been condensed into a summary report published May 8 in Circulation.

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Based on statistics by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the average sodium intake for Americans two-years-old or older is greater than 3400 mg/d, more than double the AHA's recommended amount. On a global scale, mean sodium intakes are nearly double the World Health Organization's recommended limit of 2000 mg/d. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also reported that during 2007 to 2010, the prevalence of excess sodium intake(defined as exceeding the Institute of Medicine's tolerable upper intake levels of 1500 mg/d at age 1–3 years, 1900 mg/d at 4–8 years, 2200 mg/d at 9–13 years, and 2300 mg/d at 14 years or higher) ranged from 79.1 percent for U.S. children aged 1 to 3 years to 95.4 percent for U.S. adults aged 19 to 50 years.

With the goal of increasing consumer demand for lower sodium content in processed and restaurant/food service foods, increase consumer understanding of the daily sodium intake, and encourage adherence to the AHA's recommended sodium intake, the ensuing conference was divided into a number of topical sessions. Among these various sub-assemblies were discussions on the National Salt Reduction Initiative, the scientific evidence for reducing sodium intake and establishing policy recommendations, sodium and the consumer, food technology and solutions for sodium reduction, and the challenges of the food industry as processors, providers, and culinary professionals.

While ultimately concluding that the reduction of sodium intake will be a long-term effort in need of innovative, multifaceted collaborative solutions to motivate consumer behavior and alter food industry practices, the conference posited many potential avenues of action to better the nation's health. A critical step in the immediate future is the awaited release of the federal government's draft voluntary sodium targets for packaged and restaurant foods, which will be important for lowering sodium in the food supply. Other critical government efforts also include sodium criteria on foods advertised and marketed to children, school nutrition standards, and foods purchased by employers or government feeding programs. The AHA is additionally supporting an improved food labeling that will help consumers understand how much sodium is in the foods they purchase, as well as consumer education in restaurants to help consumers choose lower-sodium options.

Keywords: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S., Federal Government, Public Health, Diet, Sodium-Restricted, Food Supply, Food Labeling, Nutrition Surveys, National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, U.S., Health and Medicine Division, Research Report

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