CDC Report: Almost Everyone Eats too Much Salt
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CDC Report: Almost Everyone Eats too Much Salt

January 8, 2016

Most Americans eat way too much salt.

That's a conclusion from a recent study released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The report found that more than 90 percent of children and 89 percent of adults eat more sodium than recommended for a healthy diet.

While there is a pretty stark difference between men and women, with 98 percent of men eating too much salt versus 80 percent of women, demographically speaking, the numbers don't change too much. About 90 percent of whites consume too much salt compared to 85 percent of blacks.

People with blood-pressure-related diseases, like hypertension, might eat a little less salt, but 86 percent of people with the disease still eat more than recommended.

"The finding that nine of ten adults and children still consume too much salt is alarming," CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement. "The evidence is clear: too much sodium in our foods leads to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Reducing sodium in manufactured and restaurant foods will give consumers more choice and save lives."

The report came out the same week as the new Dietary Guidelines created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The findings are based on the new guidelines, which advises limiting sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams per day, or the equivalent of about a teaspoon of salt.

The new guidelines, though, actually soften the salt recommendation. Previously, the limit for most adults was no more than 1,500 milligrams per day. Others could consume around 2,300 milligrams. The new guidelines provide a blanket recommendation for most Americans older than 14 to eat less than 2,300 milligrams.

The vast majority of sodium in our diet – about three quarters – is estimated to come from eating processed and restaurant foods. Unless you're cooking at home with fresh ingredients, it's hard to control the amount of salt that's included in your meal.

The CDC says that food companies and restaurants can play a role by gradually reducing sodium in the food supply. Some food companies have started to voluntarily reduce sodium in their products. General Mills, for example, pledged to lower by 20 percent the salt in several of its product categories by the end of 2015. The company reported that it has met or exceeded the goal in seven of 10 categories, with reductions across all 10 ranging from 18 to 35 percent.

In one of its many food-related controversial moves, New York City now requires that restaurants with 15 or more locations to include a salt warning next to menu items that contain more than the 2,300 milligram limit.

The report data for the report came from the 2009 – 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Nearly 15,000 people were included in the study.