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The Food and Drug Administration is asking food manufacturers and restaurants to reduce the salt content of their products in order to reduce Americans ’sodium intake by 12 percent over the next 2 years.
The comprehensive recommendation, released Wednesday, is expected to include a variety of foods – from chain restaurant meals to processed foods and even baby food on grocery store shelves.
“What we want to see is that the food industry will gradually reduce sodium levels,” FDA Acting Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock told NBC News.
The goal, Woodcock says, is to reduce the rate of heart disease, the country’s number one killer. Ultimately, reducing sodium in the diet “has a major impact on hypertension, heart disease and stroke,” he said.
Current dietary guidelines recommend that adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. This equates to about a teaspoon of table salt.
But the average person in the U.S. consumes about 3,400 mg of sodium per day. According to the FDA.
Vodkok said the new recommendations are aimed at reducing that amount by 12 percent to 3,000 mg per day. This is equivalent to consuming less than 60 teaspoons of salt per year.
Although this goal does not reach the recommended 2,300 mg of sodium per day, external experts say the guideline is a good step to combat high blood pressure, which affects almost half of adults in the United States.
Wednesday’s event completes the interim guidelines that salt companies need to add to their food products in 2016; the food industry ignored the instructions.
new recommendations not mandatory, i.e. no such reductions are required from companies.
Woodcock said the FDA will closely monitor the industry in the coming years and reward companies that meet those requirements. It was unclear what rewards would be on Wednesday, and Woodcock did not say the FDA would take action against companies that do not reduce sodium.
But experts say the federal alliance could increase the likelihood that most major manufacturers will actually act.
Marlena Schwartz, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut, said: “The benefit of putting pressure on the government to set that goal is that you will be able to make all the changes.”
The guide applies to more than 160 categories of processed foods, such as tomato sauce, dairy products and breakfast cereals, as well as dishes from chain restaurants, Woodcock said. Target levels of sodium vary in different food categories.
The National Restaurant Association said in a statement that it was working on a new guideline with the FDA and would “continue to provide options to meet the wishes and health needs of consumers.”
Public health experts have highly applauded the instruction.
Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, president of the American Heart Association, said it was a “wonderfully exciting time” to help people achieve healthy levels of sodium in their diet. This in turn can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, he said.
Dr. Peter Lurie, president of the Science Center for the Public Interest, or CSPI, one of the most popular groups in the food industry, said the FDA guideline “could be the most effective intervention the U.S. government can take.” at the moment. “
CSPI has been working for decades to reduce sodium supplementation in food. “Even though all natural foods contain small amounts of sodium,” he wrote in a letter to the federal government last month, “more than 70 percent of the sodium that the average American consumes comes from packaged and restaurant foods. “.
In addition, much of the sodium in a normal diet comes from foods that are not considered “salty,” such as breads, spaghetti sauces, and salad dressings.
“There’s very little that the average consumer can do,” Luri said. “The only way to have a significant impact on sodium consumption is to load the industry.”
The effect of salt on the body
Excessive salt intake is often associated with high blood pressure and heart problems.
But the consequences don’t start from the heart, Lloyd-Jones said, but from the kidneys.
The main function of the kidneys is to filter waste and toxins from the blood and keep the body fluid at the desired level.
When more sodium is consumed, the kidneys are unable to get rid of the excess. When sodium accumulates, the kidneys become ineffective in clearing the body of excess fluid, leading to an increase in blood pressure. As blood pressure rises, the heart has to work harder to get blood through the body. This, in turn, increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure.
Elizabeth Politi, a dietitian registered with the Duke University Lifestyle and Weight Management Center, said the new guideline was “a good step in the right direction.”
He says the experience of treating clients shows that it takes a few days for a person to get used to foods that are low in sodium.
Politi said that for a week on her program, her clients talked about the salinity of their previous meals. He said his clients’ blood pressure dropped within a few days after the salt was cut.
“The data is clear,” Politi said. “If we encourage people to reduce their sodium intake, life can be saved.”