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Salt intake a health challenge for ageing populations

By Sarah Hills , 10-Apr-2012
Last updated on 10-Apr-2012 at 14:11 GMT2012-04-10T14:11:23Z

Less salt please!
Less salt please!

Industry efforts in salt reduction appear to be on trend with the health challenges of an ageing population, which this year is a priority issue for the World Health Organization.

Each year, World Health Day (WHD) on April 7th highlights a priority area of concern for WHO and for 2012 the theme was, “Ageing and health: Good health adds life to years”.

Among the preventative strategies that the WHD brief suggested for tackling non-communicable disease in older people were reducing salt intake in food and increasing public awareness on diet and physical activity.

FoodDrinkEurope (FDE), which reaffirmed its commitment to promoting healthy choices for consumers on WHD, said that the food industry, “continues to work to provide Europe’s older citizens with the nutrition they need to promote healthy life years”.

FDE added that through schemes such as the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, food and drink producers have voluntarily, “innovated and reformulated many of their leading products to significantly reduce salt, whilst continuing to respond to consumers’ tastes, and ensuring the highest standards of food safety and stability”.

FDE also takes part in the EU-funded Nu-Age research project which works on new dietary strategies addressing the specific needs of the elderly population to respond to healthy ageing in Europe.

Marta Baffigo, chair of the FoodDrinkEurope Diet Task Force, said: “Food and drink manufacturers continue to make significant advances in delivering healthier products and encouraging better eating habits."

“This year’s World Health Day is a chance for us to reiterate our commitment to seniors in particular in terms of healthy eating options.”

Health risks

Europe and Japan were among the first places to experience population ageing but the most dramatic change is now occurring in countries such as Cuba, Iran and Mongolia.

The WHD focus is how good health throughout life can help older men and women. The WHD brief said that overwhelmingly the health challenges in older age (generally those over 60) are the consequence of non-communicable disease, such as heart disease, stroke, visual impairment, hearing loss and dementia.

These are often the consequence of behaviours or exposures earlier in life and the report states that strategies need to be put in place that reduce these risks across the life course.

Being physically active, eating a healthy diet, avoiding the harmful use of alcohol and not smoking or using tobacco products can all reduce the risk of chronic disease in older age.

The report then suggests some preventive strategies including taxes on tobacco and alcohol, smoke-free workplaces and public places, reduced salt intake in food and increasing public awareness on diet and physical activity.

FDE poll

Meanwhile, preliminary results of an FDE Independent Monitoring Survey showed that 43% of companies polled (direct and indirect members of FDE) and 83% of FDE core companies have innovated the nutrient composition of their foodstuffs over a 4-year period (from 2004 to 2008).

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