Institute of Medicine Says Americans Consume Unhealthy Amounts of Sodium

Posted on May 20, 2010

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In a report just released by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the organization states that Americans consume amounts of sodium in their food that far exceed public health recommendations. In 2008, Congress asked the IOM, which falls under auspices of the National Academies, to suggest strategies for reducing sodium intake to levels recommended in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In their report, Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States, which can be read on the IOM website, the committee concludes that reducing the sodium content of foods requires a coordinated approach that includes new government standards for accept able levels of sodium in processed foods and restaurant meals. 

The IOM committee says the average American consumes more than 3,400 mg of sodium each day. That’s about 50 percent more than the 2,300 mg (about one teaspoon) per day recommended in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Consuming too much sodium increases the risk for high blood pressure, a serious health condition that is avoidable and can lead to a variety of diseases. Analysts estimate that population-wide reductions in sodium could prevent more than 100,000 deaths annually.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains on their website that naturally occurring sodium in foods accounts for only 12 percent of Americans’ sodium intake and that salt, added either during cooking or at the table, accounts for only five and six percent of sodium intake, respectively. CDC goes on to say that sodium added as part of food processing makes up about 77 percent of Americans’ sodium intake.

During a webcast held by the IOM to discuss the report, Dr. Jane Henney, chair of the committee that prepared it, stressed that the strategies suggested in the report were aimed at reducing sodium intake to levels specified in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These dietary guidelines are currently up for review and may be lowered when the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans report comes out later this year.

The IOM report, Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States, can be read on the IOM website. A pie chart offering a breakdown of the sources of sodium in the American diet can be found on CDC’s website. For delicious fruit and vegetable recipes and nutrition information, including the sodium content of different fruits and vegetables, visit the Fruits & Veggies-More Matters website, www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org. While there, check out the About The Buzz news column on sodium.

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