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Study Shows Daily Salt Intake of Most Americans Is Greater Than Federal Guidelines

Oct. 20, 2011 -- Most Americans eat more salt than federal guidelines call for, increasing their risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, a new CDC report shows.

Eating too much sodium can't be blamed on the salt shaker alone, because most salt intake comes from other sources.

About 75% of the salt in our diets is added to commercial foods during processing or to restaurant foods during preparation. Only about 25% is found naturally in food or is added at the table or during cooking by consumers.

There are two levels of recommended salt intake, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommendations.

People 51 and over, African-Americans, and people with hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease should eat no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily to reduce their heightened risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. This is about 48% of the population age 2 years or older.

The CDC report shows that nearly 99% of this group exceeds 1,500 milligrams of salt daily.

All other people age 2 and older should not take in more than 2,300 milligrams of salt per day, according to federal guidelines. Yet, nearly 90% of that group also exceeds the daily recommended level.

Reducing Salt

According to the Institute of Medicine, sodium intake of 1,500 milligrams is adequate for most adults, excluding people like firemen and athletes whose activities cause them to sweat excessively.

The researchers say new public and private efforts are needed to reduce the public's sodium intake.

In the U.K., government and private programs have reduced individual daily sodium intake by 9.5%.

If similar reductions could be achieved in the U.S., an estimated $4 billion could be saved annually in health care costs.

The results of this research are based on data from 18,823 people that was gathered from 2005 through 2008.

The report is published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for Oct. 21.

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