In the United States and in other countries, food manufacturers are under governmental pressure to greatly reduce the amount of salt in processed foods. The assumption has been that if manufacturers put less sodium in food, people will eat less sodium.
The Salt Institute says new research from The Food Standards Agency in Scotland suggests this logic is seriously flawed. The research shows salt consumption in Scotland remains virtually unchanged since 2006, despite the food industry’s significant cutbacks of salt, which include reductions of 50 percent and more in some products.
“Time and more research may clarify exactly what has been going on in Scotland,” said Morton Satin, Vice President of Science and Research at the Salt Institute. “However, at this time it is quite safe to say that salt reduction efforts have been a public health failure.”
“The data indicates,” continued Satin, “that despite one of the most aggressive and acrimonious campaigns on the part of the Food Standards Agency to coerce the food industry to reduce salt in their product formulations, residents of Scotland have not dropped their consumption of salt in any way.”
In the U.S., advocates of guidelines to dramatically cut sodium intake assume that Americans are eating more salt, which is increasing blood pressure rates. But that logic is not backed up by evidence either.
A September 2010 paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by two Harvard researchers shows that while hypertension has increased among Americans over the last 40 years, sodium intake has remained virtually unchanged.
Satin said that no matter where you live in the world, people who have free access to salt consume 7 to 12.5 g of salt per day. This is sometimes referred to as the “hygiene range” of salt consumption. The average U.S. salt consumption falls right in the middle of this range.
“Research increasingly suggests there is an innate sodium appetite in humans,” said Satin. “There is a long-held belief by many scientists that, for certain nutrients, `the wisdom of the body’ trumps all attempts at arbitrary changes to the diet. When processed foods are reformulated to contain less salt, our bodies tell us to make up that difference.”
ABOUT THE SALT INSTITUTE: The Salt Institute is the world's foremost source of information about salt (sodium chloride). Based in Alexandria, Virginia, the Salt Institute is a trade association dedicated to advocating responsible uses of salt, particularly to ensure winter roadway safety, water quality and nutrition.