A new report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal claims that reducing dietary sodium consumption in Canada to the recommended levels “would likely decrease the prevalence of hypertension by 30 per cent, reduce hypertension-related cardiovascular events by 8.6 per cent and save about $2 billion annually in health-care costs, even without considering the impact of other sodium-related health risks.” In Canada, the average daily sodium intake is more than two times the highest recommended level — adequate sodium intake is 1500 mg/d sodium for those between nine and 50. Almost one billion adults worldwide have hypertension, with 17 to 30 per cent of cases directly attributed to excess dietary sodium and some 80 per cent of sodium intake attributed to processed foods.
In the paper, authors Sailesh Mohan MD MPH, Norm R.C. Campbell MD and Kevin Willis PhD detailed the dangers presented by high dietary sodium — including the increased risk of heart attacks and strokes — and presented effective strategies to reduce sodium consumption. The article states, “Although voluntary action by the food industry may be the preferred option to initiate sodium reduction, its absence calls for governments to use their regulatory capacity to bring about change.” The strategies included: partnership with and regulation of the food industry; reformulation of processed foods; targeted consumer education about the effects of excess dietary sodium on health; consumer-friendly food labelling to identify low-sodium products; and increased access and availability of low sodium foods.
“Governments should also make simple, easy to understand food labelling mandatory and should initiate and support effective public education campaigns to improve awareness about the deleterious effects of sodium on health,” the authors noted. “Furthermore, governments and health policymakers should set and monitor achievable targets and timelines for sodium reduction.” Ottawa initiated a federal task force on sodium in 2007, but an action plan has yet to be released. Non-governmental organizations were also charged with applying more pressure on the food industry to lower the sodium in their goods. For a look at the entire document, click here.