Too Much Salt Consumed By 186 of 187 Countries

Elaine Radford

Eating too much salt isn’t just for Americans anymore. A staggering percentage of the world’s population, representing 186 out of 187 nations, eats more salt than the amount recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA). That’s the eye-popping statistic from this week’s AHA scientific sessions taking place in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Dr. Saman Fahimi, a visiting scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health, is the lead author of the study, which put together 247 surveys of adults around the world from 1990 to 2010. The results were shocking. Only one nation, Kenya, consumed less salt than the AHA recommended maximum of 1,500 milligrams.

The World Health Organization offered a more generous maximum of 2,000 milligrams, but only six nations ate that little salt.

Kazakhstan was the worst offender, with adults taking in around 6,000 milligrams of sodium a day. Mauritius and Uzbekistan both came close to that number.

Well, what should we do about it? Most of us can’t easily visualize fractions of a gram, but the Harvard Medical School said that 1,500 milligrams is about 2/3 of a teaspoon.

Although that sounds like a limit you’d never exceed on purpose just by sprinkling the salt shaker around, there’s still a problem. Much of the sodium comes not from added table salt but from hidden salt in prepared foods.

That’s why the AHA is running an awareness campaign to alert you to the amount of salt in what they call “The Salty Six.” These top sources of too much salt in your diet include bread, cold cuts, pizza, poultry, soup, and sandwiches.

The AHA is concerned because the abuse of salt is strongly linked to high blood pressure, which in turn can lead to heart attack, other cardiovascular diseases, and stroke. There may even be some evidence that too much salt is linked to other serious conditions like multiple sclerosis or diabetes.

According to the new report, virtually every nation in the world needs to get smarter about salt.

[Salinas Grande dry salt lake photo by Elaine Radford]