Salty Recs from the New Dietary Guidelines

Monday ushered in the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government's evidence-based recommendations to promote health and reduce risk of chronic disease through nutrition and physical activity.  Recommendations for fat, cholesterol, potassium, and fiber are largely unchanged since the 2005 edition, and there was more focus on decreasing added sugars.  Click here for the full report.

Of note, there was little change for sodium recommendations (still 2300mg/day for the general public)—a point of debate for many.  Here is the Dietary Guideline's official stance on salt:
"Reduce daily sodium intake to less than  2,300 mg and further reduce intake to 1,500 mg among persons who are 51 and older, and those of any age who are African American or who have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.  The 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population, including children and the majority of adults."
This is in contrast to the recommendations from the American Heart Association, which read "Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.  Aim to eat less than 1500 mg of sodium per day."

So which is best... 2,300 mg or 1,500mg per day?  I'm not quite sure myself.  Despite the numbers, I think it's clear that sodium is worth our notice.  We know that high-salt diets are linked to high blood pressure and increased risk for heart disease, and that about 75% of American sodium intake comes from processed foods.  A reduction in sodium will require both a conscious effort from the consumer, and system wide change in the American food supply.

Fortunately, recall that the Institute of Medicine already issued a seminal report in April 2010 calling for food companies to cut back on added salt.  In addition, the IOM asked for regulatory standards for sodium levels in processed foods.  I blogged about the IOM report back in April, so feel free to take a look.

Alright folks, that's my thoughts on salt and the new guidelines.
Do you agree with the Dietary Guidelines or the AHA?      
Happy Thursday,

photo credit from American Enterprise Institute


Angela said...

Rachel, I have a question about this that maybe you'll be able to answer. I've heard that the sodium in like processed food is worse than if you just add salt to your food? Is that true? I'm not a huge salt person myself, but just checkin'...

Rachel said...

Hey Angela, thanks for the comment! Sodium in processed food...what a topic. Sodium is sodium, and the actual substance is the same in processed foods versus the salt shaker. But you're right; sodium in processed foods is probably worse than whatever you add at the table. Firstly, there's likely a greater amount of sodium in packaged food (high amounts are needed for preservative and flavor-enhancing roles). Secondly, its widespread prevalence means that added salt is lurking in nearly everything, from breads to sauces. Hmm, these are my thoughts.

Emily said...

The 1500 mg is probably optimal, but so few Americans are even meeting the 2300 mg recommendation that I can understand why it has not changed too much. I do agree that the amount of sodium in processed foods should be reduced. Actually, I usually just recommend staying far away from most processed foods vs. eating whole foods. :)

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Disclaimer. I am not a Registered Dietitian yet. I provide nutrition information intended for the general public, not for the treatment of a specific medical condition. I try to use scientific research and reliable sources when forming my opinions and messages.
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