Denmark’s excessive salt intakes turns focus on food industry

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Salt intake Salt

Danish intakes of salt in Denmark are above current recommended levels, with processed foods the main source, according to new findings from Copenhagen.

Average daily intakes of salt are 10.3 grams for men and 7.1 grams for women, according to a study of over 87 people in Copenhagen. Both of these are over the daily intakes of 5 grams per day recommended by the WHO/FAO to control blood pressure levels and reduce hypertension prevalence and related health risks in populations.

Researchers from the Technical University of Denmark report their findings in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition ​(EJCN).

“These findings support the assertion that the total salt intake in the Danish population is above the recommended intake and that the salt intake cannot be sufficiently lowered simply by lowering the use of household salt,”​ wrote the researchers, led by Dr Lone Banke Rasmussen.

“Focus needs to be addressed to salt added during the processing or manufacture of foods, as this is the greatest source of salt intake at least in this group of healthy volunteers.”

Britain leads the way in salt reduction

The study may increase pressure on European food manufacturers to reduce the salt content of their products. Numerous scientists are convinced that high salt intake is responsible for increasing blood pressure (hypertension), a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Salt is of course a vital nutrient and is necessary for the body to function, but campaigners for salt reduction, like the UK-based Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) consider the average daily salt consumption in the western world, between 10 and 12g, far too high.

The UK has been leading the way in the and the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) recommendation of six grams of salt per day for the general population is understood to be more a realistic target than the ideal healthy limit recommended by WHO/FAO.

Recently, Swiss researchers reported in the same journal that salt intakes in Switzerland were above recommended intakes, and Dr Michael Beer, Head of the Swiss Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA) and the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), told in February the results indicated that “action is needed”​.

The Swiss researchers also noted that other countries are taking action on salt intakes. France’s “moderate population-wide” ​initiative calls for daily intakes to be cut to between six and eight grams. Nutrition societies in German, Austrian and Swiss also state that six grams of salt per day is ‘sufficient’.

Danish study

Dr Rasmussen and co-workers recruited 87 healthy people aged between 20 and 55, 50 of whom were women, and estimated salt intakes by measuring the excretion of sodium in the urine. The contribution of household salt to the overall salt intake was established by using a lithium-marker technique.

According to findings in the EJCN​, household salt intake only contributed to 10.2 and 8.7 per cent of the total salt intake by men and women, respectively.

This meant that the rest of the salt intake was from foods, and equivalent to 9.6 grams in men, and 6.6 grams in women, they added.

No differences between salt intake as a function of energy intake were observed between men and women, nor did the educational level of the subjects affect the results, they added.

Source: European Journal of Clinical Nutrition​ Volume 63, Pages 598-604; doi:10.1038/ejcn.2008“Intake of household salt in a Danish population”​ Authors: L. Andersen, L.B. Rasmussen, E.H. Larsen, J. Jakobsen

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