The Heart Foundation of Jamaica (HFJ) is looking forward to implementing a salt reduction policy to reduce salt consumption in the population.
This comes as part of the Foundation’s observance of Salt Awareness Week 2022, from March 14 to 20, under the theme: “Shake the Salt Habit.”
The most recent Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey (2017) reports that approximately 1 in every 10 Jamaican consumes excessive amounts of salt/sodium by adding salt at the table or through frequent consumption of salty sauces and processed foods high in sodium.
“Unfortunately, most of our processed foods are high in sodium, with many containing several sources of sodium. More than 60% of packaged foods contain table salt (sodium chloride), and other additives include sodium benzoate, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), brine and soy sauce,” said clinical nutritionist at the Caribbean Institute for Health Research (CAIHR) and board member at the HFJ, Dr Suzanne Soares-Wynter.
“Foods with high amounts of sodium per serving include the ready-to-heat/ready-to-eat foods such as soups and pastries and processed meats like corned beef and sausages. Most sauces, spreads, dried spices, and seasonings have excess sodium, and these are used frequently in food preparation. Even beverages like sports and energy drinks and non-dairy milk can have high sodium. Consumers can easily consume a lot of salt given the wide variety of products with excess salt,” she added.
Warning: Too Much Salt
While sodium plays a critical role in several human bodily functions such as blood volume and pressure regulation, osmotic equilibrium, and the control of pH levels in our bodies, Dr Soares-Wynter warns that negligence to monitor and regulate daily consumptions can result in persons developing a heightened and unhealthy preference for its excess.
Diets high in salt are associated with an increased risk of developing the ‘silent killer’, hypertension. High blood pressure increases the risk of heart attacks, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness. It is also a major risk factor for heart disease.
How Much is Good?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a daily intake of less than 2,300-milligrams of sodium (a little less than 1-teaspoon of salt) for basic life functions.
“The issue is that, in addition to the over-consumption of table salt, a lot of processed food already contain high amounts of salt, some even exceeding the daily recommendation in one sitting,” said Barbara McGaw, project manager of the Global Health Advocacy Project, HFJ.
According to the World Action on Salt, Sugar & Health, three-quarters of the salt we consume daily comes from packaged and pre-prepared foods. The consumer cannot remove this, so simply telling people to eat less salt will have a limited effect.
Practical front of package warning labels (FOPWL) is also necessary so that consumers are aware when products are high in salt. A recent PAHO/UTECH study in Jamaica found that the black octagonal “High In” front of package warning labels were most effective in assisting consumers in identifying products high in salt, fat, and sugars.
On the occasion of World Salt Awareness Week, the HFJ is calling for the food industry also to be mindful of the negative impact of excess salt on health and to reduce the salt content in their products – shake the salt habit; so that we can all live longer healthier lives.