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Elderly need to up salt levels

22-Sep-2004

As the UK launches a drive to reduce salt in the consumer diet, a recent study in Germany finds an extra dose of salt a day could benefit the elderly.

Speaking at the European Geriatrics Congress in Vienna last week, Professor Ingo Füsgen from the University of Witten-Herdecke claimed that 10 per cent of older people suffer from sub-acute sodium deficiency, which can result in problems such as nervous disposition, hallucinations, muscle cramps and incontinence.

"Sodium deficiency is common for elderly people but it is often not recognised," said Professor Füsgen.

According to a survey Füsgen conducted, 80 per cent of elderly people 'try to consume salt sparingly due to a misapprehension that too much salt causes high blood pressure'. He maintains that a low salt diet is not appropriate for the majority of elderly people.

"Many older people are not aware of the danger of a low salt diet and try to reduce their consumption of salt because they assume it is healthy," he added.

Controversy linked to the most common food ingredient in the world sparked off in June this year when UK health minister Melanie Johnson rejected plans submitted by the industry to reduce salt levels, accusing food manufacturer's of not going 'nearly far enough.'

In a letter Johnson surprised over twenty food players - among them Kerry Foods, Heinz, Sainsbury, and McDonalds - warning them they had until 18 September to come back with a better plan to beat the 'unacceptably high levels of salt'.

"We are astonished," a spokesperson from the UK Food and Drink Federation told FoodNavigator.com at the time.

Eating too much salt is a significant risk factor in developing high blood pressure, itself a cause or contributing factor in the rising incidence of heart disease.

Recent figures from the UK's Food Standards Agency claim that every day at least 26 million people eat more than the recommended daily limit of 6g of salt. Men are eating the most with a daily average of 11.0g of salt while women consume an average of 8.1g a day.

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