National Consumers League

So what’s the answer to the sodium problem?


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By Teresa Green, Linda Golodner Food Safety & Nutrition Fellow The verdict is in: Americans consume far too much salt. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommend no more than 2300 mg of sodium per day. For nearly 50% of us, including those over 50, African Americans and those with chronic health conditions such as kidney disease or diabetes, the recommended amount is even lower, at 1500 mg per day. In reality, the average American consumes around 3400 mg per day, well above recommended levels. This heavy consumption can have consequences.  Excessive sodium consumption has been shown to increase blood pressure which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Clearly, the solution is to reduce the amount of sodium we consumer,  a move which can reverse these health consequences.  To accomplish this, the FDA should step in and regulate how much sodium is allowed in foods. Currently, sodium is classified as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). Removal of GRAS status would allow the FDA to set more limits on the amount of salt allowed in food. (Read NCL's recent comments to the FDA regarding sodium's GRAS status here.) Setting more healthy sodium limits would lead to the next step: product reformulation.  This process is essential because Americans get a staggering 77% of their sodium from prepackaged and restaurant foods. This means that simply lightening up on the saltshaker will not result in significant decreases in sodium for most Americans. In order for consumers to be able to easily reduce the amount of sodium in their diets, it is essential that manufacturers make products that have lower sodium levels. Reducing sodium can seem like a daunting task. Enter Jessica Goldman, whose Web site, “Sodium Girl,” gives cooking tips for those looking to eat a reduced sodium diet. By reducing her sodium intake to between 500 and 1000 mg per day, Goldman, who has lupus, has been able to come off dialysis and is no longer on the kidney transplant list.  Her website provides helpful recipes and tips for others who want to follow a low sodium diet. Jessica Goldman has shown that sodium reduction is more than possible. Reformulation and government regulation will make it even easier, allowing Americans to make healthier choices that will reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke, a goal we can all agree is worth achieving.