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Salt consumption falls 11% over past decade

People still eating a third more than they should, says PHE

Adrian O'Dowd

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

People are eating around 11% less salt daily than they did 10 years ago, but consumption levels are still too high, according to Public Health England (PHE).

PHE’s new report National Diet and Nutrition Survey shows that, on average, adults are eating 8 grams of salt per day, but they have cut their average salt consumption by 0.9 grams per day in the decade from 2005 to 2014.

The daily consumption has fallen from 8.8 grams in 2005-06 to 8.5 grams in 2011 and to 8 grams in 2014.

A random sample of 689 adults aged 19 to 64 years, designed to be representative of adults in England, took part in the study in which PHE commissioned an assessment of the salt content of 24-hour urine collections made from May to September 2014.

This report continues a series of urinary sodium surveys across the general adult population in UK countries since 2005-06 and results are used by the government to monitor progress towards the recommended maximum salt intake for adults of no more than 6 grams per person per day.

It is known that too much salt in the diet can raise blood pressure, thus increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Reducing average salt intake from 8 grams to 6 grams per day is estimated to prevent over 8,000 premature deaths each year and save the NHS over £570million annually.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: “Our analysis makes clear that there is a steady downward trend in salt consumption. While people are having less salt than 10 years ago, we are still eating a third more than we should.

“The majority of the salt we eat is in everyday foods so it’s important to check labels and choose lower salt options. Many manufacturers and retailers have significantly reduced the salt levels in everyday foods. However, more needs to be done, especially by restaurants, cafes and takeaways.”

Campaigning group Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH) said salt consumption levels had hardly changed between 2011 and 2014 so urgent steps were needed.

Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and CASH chairman, said: “This is a tragedy for public health. The food industry is the biggest and most powerful industry in the world. Most of the foods that it currently provides are very high in salt, fat and sugars, causing strokes, heart failure and heart attacks, obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

“[David] Cameron must take charge and set up robust mechanisms to control the food industry, with regulated targets for salt, sugar and fat.”

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