Salt is part of a healthy diet – we need it to regulate blood pressure and the body’s fluids. Too little of it can be dangerous, but we’re more often at risk of having too much, causing high blood pressure which in turn increases your risk of heart attacks and stroke.
The World Health Organization recommends that the average person consumes five grams of salt in their diet per day. For most people, you’ll get all the salt you need from a regular, natural diet. New research, however, suggests many Australian adults are eating too much of it.
In this review, researchers collected data about the salt intake of almost 17,000 Australians between 1989 and 2015. The information came from 24-hour urine collections or dietary questionnaires. The researchers did note that people tend to under-report their food intake when they keep a diary and they did find a discrepancy between salt intake shown in urine collections, versus salt intake based on dietary questionnaires.
In the urine collection studies – considered the most reliable by the researchers – they found that Australians were consuming 9.6 grams of salt per day. Men consumed more salt on average, at 10.1 grams of salt per day, while woman took in 7.34 grams per day. They also found that salt intake correlated with a person’s BMI, which is not a surprise since the more you eat, the more salt goes with it. The Australian population’s salt intake didn’t decrease over the 26 years of data collected by the analysis.
These findings show that many Australians are consuming salt well above the World Health Organization’s recommended intake of five grams per day – in some cases, and particularly for men, intake is at double that level. The researchers suggest that stronger government initiatives around the reduction of salt in available foods and greater awareness of the health implications of eating too much salt can be effective at reducing salt intake at the population level. In the UK, such an approach led to a 15 per cent reduction in overall population salt intake over a 10-year period, and an estimated 9000 fewer cardiovascular deaths per year as a result.