Salt de­bate: You need just a pinch

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - METRO -

the harm­ful ef­fects of sodium – high blood pres­sure, heart at­tack, stroke, con­ges­tive heart fail­ure, cir­rho­sis (ir­re­versible liver dam­age) and chronic kid­ney dis­ease, among oth­ers — af­fected only com­mu­ni­ties in China, where the lib­eral use of soy sauce pushed sodium lev­els to more than 5 gms a day.

Sim­i­lar find­ings by the same team of re­searchers pub­lished in The Lancet in 2016 were called flawed and re­jected by many sci­en­tists and as­so­ci­a­tions, in­clud­ing the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion.

The av­er­age salt in­take in In­dia is 10.98 gms a day, ac­cord­ing to a sys­tem­atic re­view of 21 stud­ies and sur­veys done in In­dia be­tween 1986 and 2014 pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Hy­per­ten­sion last year.

How much salt peo­ple across In­dia con­sume varies widely, rang­ing be­tween 5.22 gms and 42.3 gms per day, found the study, which con­cluded that there was no doubt that pop­u­la­tion salt con­sump­tion in the coun­try far ex­ceeded the Who-rec­om­mended max­i­mum of 5 gms per day.

Sev­eral stud­ies have shown that low­er­ing salt in the diet pro­tects health. Ac­cord­ing to a re­view of stud­ies cov­er­ing over 170,000 peo­ple pub­lished in The BMJ, eat­ing less than 5 gms of salt a day re­duces risk of stroke by 23% and heart dis­ease by 17%. The World Heart Fed­er­a­tion es­ti­mates that re­duc­ing salt in­take to 5 gms a day would pre­vent 3 mil­lion deaths due to heart dis­ease and 1.25 mil­lion from stroke world­wide each year.

Peo­ple who eat pack­aged foods in­vari­ably end up eat­ing un­healthy amounts of salt, which is added to pro­cessed and pack­aged foods to en­hance taste, give tex­ture and bind in wa­ter to add bulk to the prod­uct.

In mid­dle-class homes, more than half of the di­etary salt con­sumed comes from hid­den sources such as pro­cessed foods, be it bread, pro­cessed meat (cold cuts and sausages), cheese, bis­cuits, cook­ies, cakes and pack­aged munches like chips, sal­ties and savoury mixes.

Nu­tri­tional la­bels list the amount of sodium, not the higher salt con­tent. To get the salt con­tent in a pack­aged food, mul­ti­ply the sodium value listed with 2.5. Foods la­belled “low salt” must have less 120 mg of sodium per 100 gms.

In In­dia, pack­aged food ma­jors, in­clud­ing ITC, HUL, Nes­tle In­dia, Bri­tan­nia, Marico, MTR, Patan­jali, Halidram’s, Kel­logg’s, Kraft Heinz In­dia, Bikano, MTR, Weik­field, Field­fresh Foods and Bag­gry’s, have com­mit­ted to the Food Safety and Stan­dards Author­ity of In­dia to vol­un­tar­ily cut salt, sugar and fat in prod­ucts by 2020.

It’s a step in the right di­rec­tion but most peo­ple need to cut down on added salt by at least 30% to lower health risks. Hav­ing too lit­tle salt along with pre­scrip­tion medicines such as di­uret­ics, ACE in­hibitors and an­giotensin Ii-re­cep­tor block­ers pre­scribed for high blood pres­sure, kid­ney dam­age and heart fail­ure may trig­ger se­vere elec­trolyte im­bal­ance.

Shun­ning pack­aged food and eat­ing home-cooked meals is the sim­plest way to eat salt in rec­om­mended amounts.

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