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Hypertension/High Blood Pressure Health Center

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Americans Still Eat Too Much Salt: CDC

New strategies needed to reduce risk of high blood pressure, experts say


In addition, both fast and processed food alters taste expectations, leading to constant parental complaints that their kids won't eat anything but chicken nuggets and hot dogs, Heller said.

It's the parents and caregivers who are in charge of the menus, Heller said. "This begs the question: Why are you giving a 2-year-old these foods?" she said.

Salt hides in many foods, Heller said. "Salt is used for texture, flavor enhancement and as a preservative, and does not necessarily taste salty," she said.

Some health advocates believe the solution to the salt problem lies in getting food companies and restaurants to reduce salt in their foods.

In 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began working with the food industry to voluntarily reduce salt in processed foods. But two years later, little had been accomplished, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

"Unfortunately, the food industry has failed to significantly bring down sodium levels despite 40 years of governmental admonitions," Julie Greenstein, the center's deputy director of health promotion policy, said in a statement in 2012. "It's time for the FDA to step in and require reasonable reductions."

The problem is that there's scant evidence for determining exactly how much salt is too much and how little is too little, according to a recent Institute of Medicine report.

"[For now], the simple answer is to cook more at home and eat more whole and less processed foods," Heller said.

Checking food labels for sodium content is also vital, experts say.

For the report, the CDC relied on data from a national survey involving almost 35,000 people, conducted between 2003 and 2010. The survey found that most Americans still consume an average of 3,400 milligrams -- about 1.5 teaspoons -- of salt a day, according to the IOM.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend people 14 to 50 years old limit their daily salt intake to 2,300 mg.

But that's still too much for about half of Americans, according to the guidelines. People over 50, blacks and people with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease should restrict salt intake to 1,500 mg a day.

The CDC report was published in the Dec. 20 issue of the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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