Sodium Fact Sheet
Americans consume too much sodium. High sodium consumption raises blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.1 Heart disease and stroke are the nation's first and fourth leading causes of death.2
Salt and High Blood Pressure
- Research shows a strong dose-dependent relationship between consuming too much salt and raised levels of blood pressure—as sodium intake increases, so does blood pressure for most people.1
- When salt intake is reduced, blood pressure begins decreasing within weeks on average.3
- Populations who consume diets low in salt do not experience the increase in blood pressure with age that is seen in most Western countries.1,4
Is it Salt, or is it Sodium?
- Sodium chloride is the chemical name for salt.1
- The words salt and sodium are not exactly the same, yet these words are often used in place of each other. For example, the Nutrition Facts panel uses "sodium," whereas the front of the package may say "low salt."5
- Ninety percent of the sodium we consume is in the form of salt.1
Sodium Consumption and Sodium in Our Food Supply
- We all need a small amount of sodium to keep our bodies working properly.1
- The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day. Individuals who are 51 years and older and those of any age, including children, who are African American or have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease should limit intake to no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. These specific populations account for about half of the U.S. population and the majority of adults.6
- The average daily sodium intake for Americans age 2 years and older is 3,400 mg.7
- Most of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods and foods prepared in restaurants. When sodium is added to processed foods, it cannot be removed. More than 40% of sodium intake comes from the following 10 types of foods:8
- Breads and rolls
- Cold cuts and cured meats such as deli or packaged ham or turkey
- Fresh and processed poultry
- Sandwiches such as cheeseburgers
- Pasta dishes (not including macaroni and cheese)
- Meat-mixed dishes such as meat loaf with tomato sauce
- Snacks such as chips, pretzels, and popcorn
- Decreasing personal sodium intake can be hard, even for motivated persons.
- Sodium content can vary significantly within food categories. For example, sodium in chicken noodle soup can vary by as much as 840 mg per serving.8
- Consumers typically underestimate the sodium content of restaurant foods.9 With forthcoming implementation of national menu labeling, information on sodium and other key nutrients will be made available upon request.10
Reducing Sodium, Reducing Cardiovascular Disease Burden
- A reduction of 25% in sodium content across the top 10 food category contributors to sodium consumption could result in an 11% reduction (approximately 360 mg) in total daily mean sodium consumption in the United States.8
- Excess sodium intake contributes to high rates of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Reducing average population sodium consumption by 400 mg has been projected to avert up to 28,000 deaths from any cause and saves $7 billion in health care expenditures annually.11
Other Potential Benefits of Reduced Sodium Consumption That Need Further Research1
- Reduced risk of gastro-esophageal cancer.
- Reduced left ventricular mass.
- Preserved bone mass.
- Institute of Medicine. Dietary reference intakes for water, potassium, sodium chloride, and sulfate. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2004.
- Kochanek KD, Xu J, Murphy SL, Miniño AM, Kung H-C. Deaths: final data for 2009. Nat Vital Stat Rep. 2011;60(3).
- He FJ, MacGregor GA. EḀect of longer-term modest salt reduction on blood pressure. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004(3):CD004937.
- Chobanian AV, Bakris GL, Black HR, Cushman WC, Green LA, Izzo JL Jr, et al. The seventh report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. Hypertension. 2003;42:1206–52.
- Office of the Federal Register. Food labeling; mandatory status of nutrition labeling and nutrient content revision. Final rule. 58 CFR 2079 (1993).
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th edition. Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 2010.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. What we eat in America. Available from www.ars.usda.gov/services/docs.htm?docid=18349.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital signs: food categories contributing the most to sodium consumption—United States, 2007–2008. MMWR. 2012;61(5):92–8.
- Burton S, Creyer E, Kees J, Huggins K. Attacking the obesity epidemic: The potential health benefits of providing nutrition information in restaurants. Am J Public Health. 2006;96:1669–75.
- Office of the Federal Register. Food labeling; nutrition labeling of standard menu items in restaurants and similar retail food establishments. Proposed rule. 21 CFR Parts 11 and 101 (2011). Available from www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-04-06/html/2011-7940.htm.
- Bibbins-Domingo K, Chertow GM, Coxson PG, Moran A, Lightwood JM, Pletcher MJ, et al. Projected effect of dietary salt reductions on future cardiovascular disease. N Engl J Med. 2010;362:590–9.
- Page last reviewed: July 22, 2014
- Page last updated: July 26, 2013
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