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For Immediate Release: March 26, 2009
Contact: Division of Media Relations (404) 639-3286


Americans Consume Too Much Salt

Lower sodium recommendation applies to almost 70 percent of American adults

Most Americans consume more than double the amount of their daily recommended level of sodium.  A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that more than 2 out of 3 adults are in population groups that should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium.  During 2005-2006 the estimated average intake of sodium for persons in the United States age 2 years and older was 3,436 mg per day. 

A diet high in sodium increases the risk of having higher blood pressure, a major cause for heart disease and stroke. These diseases are the first and third leading causes of death in the United States.

“It’s important for people to eat less salt.  People who adopt a heart healthy eating pattern that includes a diet low in sodium and rich in potassium and calcium can improve their blood pressure,” said Darwin R. Labarthe, M.D., Ph.D., director of the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention.  “Reducing sodium intake can prevent or delay increases in blood pressure for everyone.’’

“People need to know their recommended daily sodium limit and take action to reduce sodium intake,” Labarthe said.  Most of the sodium we eat comes from packaged, processed and restaurant foods. CDC along with other HHS agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, will be working with major food manufacturers and chain restaurants to reduce sodium levels in the food supply.    

The study in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a survey designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States. 

This study is the first to use national data to show that 69.2 percent of the adult population belongs to a specific group that should aim to consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.  This group includes persons with high blood pressure, blacks, or middle-aged and older adults (more than 40 years old).  The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults in general should consume less than 2,300 mg (approximately one teaspoon of salt) of sodium per day. 

The dietary guidelines, by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provide advice for people 2 years and older about how good dietary habits can promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases. For more information on the guidelines, see http://www.health.gov/DietaryGuidelines/.

Nationwide, 16 million men and women have heart disease and 5.8 million are estimated to have had a stroke.  People who reduce their sodium consumption benefit from improved blood pressure and reduce their risk for developing other serious health problems.  Choosing foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, when eating out, asking that foods be prepared without added salt, and reading the nutrition label of foods before purchasing can improve health for all adults.

CDC has commissioned an Institute of Medicine study that will outline strategies to reduce sodium consumption to levels recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  To learn more about the report, visit http://www.iom.edu/CMS/3788/59128.aspx

For more information about heart disease and stroke, visit CDC’s Web site at http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

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