Feds take aim at sodium levels in food

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
November 28, 2007 9:00:00 PM PST
First, it was fat. Then it was carbs. Now, there's something else in your diet that could be harmful - salt.And the feds are taking on the issue.

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

The Food and Drug Administration held hearings Thursday about what to do about salt in our canned and packaged food. Just the way trans fats were recently chastised, now health advocates are taking aim at salt.

It's not that everybody is sprinkling with a heavy hand, it's that a lot of the food most Americans eat comes from cans and packages, fast food and restaurants. It's in those places that we find most of our added salt.

"This is where we get 75 percent of food in the diet," said Dr. Miriam Pappo, of Montefiore Medical Center.

Health guideline experts recommend people over age 50 eat no more than approximately 2/3 of a tablespoon per day.

And the younger, healthier crowd should eat no more than maybe a tablespoon.

But we Americans are eating double and sometimes triple the amount we should be consuming.

And studies suggest that a higher salt intake might mean more health problems, like hypertension, high blood pressure and more.

"Hypertenson is associated with heart disease, stroke and kidney failure," Dr. Pappo said.

"Salt is killing us" is the way the American Medical Association has put it.

Their statement today read, "The deaths attributed to excess salt consumption represent a huge toll - the equivalent of a jumbo jet with more than 400 passengers crashing every day of the year, year after year."

They say 150,000 lives could be saved if only we cut down salt consumption by half. They are favoring limitations on added salt and improved labeling.

But Dr. Pappo says individuals can limit sodium intake in an even better way. She educates people as follows:

"There's real natural food and then there's man-made food," she said. "And if we eat the real natural food and leave the man-made food alone, or at least reduce it as much as possilbe, we'll be OK with our sodium intake."

Until we hear the FDA's recommendations, you can practice some good eating habits. Leave canned food for your pets and fast food for the occasional irresistible craving. Add more natural foods and fresh fruits and vegetables to your food choices.