Health officials are urging food manufacturers and services to take drastic action against America’s insatiable appetite for salt.
The Food and Drug Administration has asked food-producing companies to slash the amount of salt in their products by at least 12%, giving businesses 2½ years to hit the mark, according to a statement made Wednesday.
“What we’d like to see is the food industry gradually lower the sodium content,” Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock told NBC News, targeting conventionally purchased foods and groceries — namely, processed and prepackaged foods, such as condiments, snacks and frozen dinners, as well as dishes from chain restaurants.
They hope the new guidance will reduce rates of heart disease — the No. 1 cause of premature death in the US. Reducing sodium intake “would have a major impact on hypertension, heart disease and stroke,” Woodcock added.
The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans calls for adults to consume no more than 2,300 milligrams, or about one teaspoon, of sodium per day — well below the national daily average of about 3,400 milligrams of sodium.
The new recommendations would see that Americans reduce that average down to 3,000 milligrams, a 12% decrease. And while companies are not required to comply, Woodcock said that those that do would receive a “reward” for their action, though the FDA did not clarify what the prize would entail.
Physicians outside federal agencies agree that salt intake must come down if we hope to challenge the nation’s hypertension epidemic, in which nearly half of all U.S. adults have high blood pressure.
Too much salt can inhibit the kidneys from expelling fluid from the body, leading to a build-up that puts pressure on blood vessels, causing them to stiffen and narrow over time. As a result, the flow of blood and oxygen throughout the body decreases, raising one’s risk of heart damage, fat accumulation in the arteries and ischemic stroke.
Dr. Sean Heffron, a preventative cardiologist at NYU Langone Health’s Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, called the FDA’s message “pretty exciting.”
“The cardiovascular community [has] for a long time advocated for Americans to reduce their salt and sodium consumption, and the vast majority of that comes from processed, packaged foods consumed outside the home,” Heffron told The Post.
He praised the FDA’s negotiations with industry stakeholders to arrive at their new recommendations as an achievable benchmark for food manufacturers and producers.
However, not all physicians agree with the sweeping new guidelines, including cardiovascular researcher and “The Salt Fix” author James DiNicolantonio, who called for a nuanced approach to dietary recommendations.
As a research scientist at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute and associate editor of the journal BMJ Open Heart, DiNicolantonio claims that our standard salt consumption “does not seem to be a problem for most people” already on a nutritious, whole-food diet, he told The Post in a statement.
His work has revealed “that approximately 80% of people with normal blood pressure … are not sensitive to the blood-pressure-raising effects of salt at all,” he wrote in his 2017 book, and asserted that healthy adults — excluding, in particular, those with kidney disease — could have up to 6,000 milligrams of sodium a day with no ill effects.
The importance of salt to global cuisine can’t be understated, both doctors agree, as a preservative and ubiquitous seasoning, which encourages people to eat nutritious foods — namely vegetables — that they might not otherwise enjoy.
But Dr. Heffron believes instances of patients suffering from too little salt are “rare” and largely avoidable.
“These recommendations are, overall, a good thing,” he said, as the FDA takes aim at producers, not consumers, over unnecessary salt consumption. “As far as detrimental effects … that would be a rare instance.
“The vast majority [of Americans] really, really would benefit,” he added.
The FDA’s “gradual” approach to sodium reduction is key, said Heffron, who encourages the same for his patients on a diet, “because big changes … are not sustained very well.”
Published on: Article source