4-10 March 2019 – Salt Awareness Week
The Salt Awareness Week of 4-10 March 2019 promoted by World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) focuses on raising awareness among governments, food industries, health organizations, and individuals on the negative effects of high salt intake, and strategies to reduce it. This year’s goal is to call for action, in line with the slogan “It’s time for ACTION on salt”.
Consisting of sodium and chloride, salt is an essential element of our diet. It helps maintain the balance of liquids in our body and supports cellular functions, therefore a moderate intake is very important for our wellbeing. The issue is the amount of our salt intake. An adult needs less than 1 gram of salt a day. However, data tell us that we consume much more than that: from 8 to 15 grams a day. To reduce salt consumption and enhance the flavor of our food we can use spices or aromatic herbs.
An excessive salt consumption can seriously affect our health, increasing our arterial pressure and posing a higher risk of onset of severe cardio-cerebrovascular diseases related to hypertension (cardiovascular diseases, heart attack, stroke), kidney diseases (kidney failure), osteoporosis, and digestive system tumors (stomach cancer). Stroke and heart diseases are two of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends a reduction to 5 g/day salt in adults intake, making it a global target back in 1983, and further endorsing it in 2003, 2006, and 2012. It is estimated that a reduction to 5g/day in salt intake would prevent approximately 2.5 million deaths a year worldwide caused by stroke and cardiac diseases.
According to data from INRAN, the Italian National Research Institute for Food and Nutrition, the main source of salt (54%) is contained in preserved and pre-cooked foods (industrially processed food), followed by the salt added during cooking and table salt (36%), and salt contained in fresh foods (10%). The recommendation is therefore to avoid packaged products and cook simple meals using raw materials.
Actions promoted by WASH.
- Individuals: reduce salt intake, and encourage friends, family, and children to reduce salt consumption. Salt consumption must be reduced starting from childhood: not only for prevention, but also to educate children. A few simple tips: drain and rinse canned vegetables and legumes, gradually decrease the amount of salt added to foods until you get used to the new taste, use herbs and spices instead of salt, eliminate sauces and salt from the table while eating, check food labels and choose low-salt foods.
- Governments: prioritize actions in health policies to reduce salt consumption developing dedicated programs to pursue this goal.
- Food industry: commit to further reducing salt in the products supplied to large retailers.
- Health organizations: inform and raise awareness on the negative consequences of excessive salt consumption for human health.