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    Most of it comes from processed or restaurant food, not salt shaker, experts say

    By Steven Reinberg

    HealthDay Reporter

    THURSDAY, Jan. 7, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Most Americans eat too much salt on a daily basis, potentially putting their health at risk, federal health officials reported Thursday.

    More than 90 percent of children and 89 percent of adults consume more sodium than is recommended in the new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new guidelines advise no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of salt a day -- about a teaspoon -- for most adults.

    "Nearly all Americans, regardless of age, race or gender, consume more salt than is recommended for a healthy diet," said lead study author Sandra Jackson, an epidemiologist in the CDC's division for heart disease and stroke prevention.

    The CDC report was published in the Jan. 8 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

    Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which can increase the risk for heart disease and stroke. "Reducing salt can lower blood pressure and also lower the risk of heart disease," Jackson said.

    Jackson said that about 70 million American adults have high blood pressure and only half have it under control. Heart disease, stroke and other heart-related diseases kill more than 800,000 Americans each year and cost nearly $320 billion a year in health care and lost productivity, she added.

    The latest federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans -- released Thursday -- emphasize cutting back on salt, sugar and saturated fats. The recommendations also advise increasing amounts of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the diet.

    Despite long-standing advice to cut back on salt, Americans' consumption of salt has stayed mostly the same during the past decade, Jackson said.

    That's likely because more than three-quarters of the salt (sodium) that people eat comes from processed or packaged foods, and restaurant food. This hidden salt makes it hard for people to reduce the amount of salt they consume, she said.

    To see a big impact on salt intake, restaurants and food manufacturers would need to cut the amount of salt they put in food, Jackson said. "That's the most powerful public health tool for reducing salt for the American population," she said.

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