CASH raises awareness of salt dangers of African Caribbeans

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Salt Blood pressure

Some UK ethnic groups are at an increased risk of suffering ill
effects as a result of too much salt according to CASH, which is
making the African Caribbean population the focus of next year's
National Salt Awareness Week.

Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) CASH project co-ordinator Emma Mast explained to that in the general UK and European population the majority of salt in the diet comes from processed food. Although African-Caribbeans and South Asians eating habits are moving more towards processed foods, traditionally they cook more food from scratch and therefore the salt is added during cooking. What is more, many of the spices used in food preparation contain salt, and salted meat figures large in traditional diets.

In the general UK population salt consumption is between 10 and 12g per day. There is no evidence that African Caribbeans exceed this but they do have a higher risk of raised blood pressure, to which excess salt can contribute, and therefore of strokes, heart disease and kidney disease, than the general UK population.

CASH chairman Professor Graham McGregor said that although there is "no doubt"​ that this is the case, the reasons are not absolutely certain.

One idea is that African people evolved in a hot climate where they had very little access to salt, and were perhaps consuming as little as a quarter of a gram. Since humans need a certain amount of salt, their kidneys developed to be better able to hold onto it.

"This was an advantage as they were able to survive in adverse conditions,"​ said McGregor.

CASH is not recommending that African Caribbean people revert to as little as a quarter of a gram per day - this would be very difficult to do. Rather, he said that they should reduce their intake to below the FSA recommended limit of 6g, and ideally to 5g.

The FSA's 6g recommendation for the general population is understood to be more a realistic target for the next five years than the ideal healthy limit.

CASH is currently conducting a small FSA-funded study at the blood pressure unit of St George's Hospital, where it is based, to see how effective one-on-one advice sessions on reducing salt in the diet are at reducing African Caribbean patients' blood pressure.

Twenty patients are currently involved in the study, with follow up at two to three weeks. The results of this initial investigation will be presented during Salt Awareness Week, January 29 to February 4 2006. Mast said it would also be interesting to conduct longer-term follow up at six months if funding were available.

McGregor said that more than 33 percent of adults in the general UK population suffer from high blood pressure, but amongst African Caribbeans the percentage is higher, around 40 percent.

He said that high blood pressure is more likely to occur at an earlier age and to cause more damage.

Asian people, too, are more likely to have high blood pressure than the general population, and they are also more likely to have heart disease.

Now in its seventh year, Salt Awareness Week aims to raise awareness of salt consumption with an information pack distributed to health care practitioners, media campaigns and a reception at the House of Commons to which politicians, celebrities and members of the media are invited.

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