Ethnicity a factor in salt susceptibility

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Salt Hypertension Uk

Some ethnic groups are more at risk of suffering from salt-related
illnesses than others, warns a UK pressure group just days before
Salt Awareness Week.

According to Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), African-Caribbean people are more sensitive to the effects of salt and are more likely to get raised blood pressure.

They are thus at higher risk of getting strokes, heart disease and kidney disease, than the general UK population.

More than 33 per cent of adults in the general UK population suffer from high blood pressure, but amongst African Caribbeans the percentage is higher, around 40 per cent.

As a result, CASH plans to make the African Caribbean population the focus of next week's event. The organisation has already been awarded a grant from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to investigate how effective a one-to-one advice session will be on reducing salt in the diet of African-Caribbean people.

There is evidence that within the UK population in general, awareness of the need to reduce salt consumption has increased. There has been a noticeable shift away from salt in recent years - according to market analyst Mintel, the salt sector in the UK has seen sales fall 13 per cent from £23 million in 2000 to about £20 million in 2005.

Table and cooking salt have been the main casualties, losing 15 per cent and 17 per cent of volume sales respectively between 2003 and 2005. In contrast, sea/rock salt and low sodium alternatives have increased, but between them they account for just 20 per cent of the total salt market, not enough to stem the decline.

But in the general UK and European population, salt consumption, most of which still comes from processed food, remains too high.

And while there is no evidence that African Caribbeans exceed average consumption levels - between 10g and 12g per day (FSA recommends 6g) - 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.

Eating habits may be a factor. Although African-Caribbeans and South Asians 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.

CASH says that 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.

Salt Awareness Week runs from 29 January to 4 February. Health professionals throughout the country will be putting on displays and events.

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