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75% of the daily consumption of dietary sodium intake are from prepared, packaged and processed foods. Added salt from the salt shaker accounts for a further 6%.

A successful Australian health promotion campaign in the 1970s was aimed at consumers to reduce salt in their diet during cooking processes and from adding additional quantities at the table for better health outcomes.

The word salt and sodium is used interchangeably in health language which has created some confusion within the community. Salt is made up of 40% sodium. Our body requires sodium for the maintenance of extracellular and serum osmolarity.

Excess sodium intake is excreted by the kidneys as sodium build up in the body is fatal. The kidneys excrete excess sodium more rapidly in the presence of higher blood pressure.

Sustained high blood pressure over a long period of time affects blood vessels by causing stiffening of the wall of the vessels. The damage to the blood vessels increases the risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Sodium is naturally occurring in unprocessed foods – fresh fruimageit, vegetables, meat and dairy products. Australian dietary sodium recommendation for adults is 1.2 g/day. Currently the Australian adult daily average consumption is 3.5g/day.

Sodium does not act alone. Potassium works very closely alongside sodium. The ideal sodium:potassium ratio has not yet been clearly established, however it is thought to influence blood pressure more strongly than sodium on its own.

A study published in 2014 suggests that whilst a diet high in sodium (>6 g/day) is unhealthy, so too is a diet too low in sodium (<3 g/day). The ideal range of dietary sodium intake was considered to be between 3 g – 6 g/day.

A 2013 World Health Organisation (WHO) study found that almost all countries inhabitants exceeded the recommended sodium daily intake of 1.5g/day.

More than 25% of the world’s population over the age of 25 years suffer from hypertension. Hypertension is ranked as the leading cause of cardiovascular disease.

Concensus amongst hypertension experts is that the beneficial effect of salt reduction starts at daily intake levels of 5 gms or less and relatively high levels potassium in the low salt diets may have additional effects on
blood pressure.

Debate around sodium and salt intake is not around the effect on blood pressure and consequences to health, but around determining the right level of sodium intake to maintain optimal health.