|Health Experts Call on Industry, Consumers to Cut Salt to Save Lives|
Reducing salt in food products and at the table can reduce chronic diseases at a cost of pennies per person
Santiago, Chile, 16 November 2009 - An expert group convened by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) called today on food manufacturers, consumers, and governments to take action to cut dietary salt consumption, saying this is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce chronic diseases.
"High blood pressure is the number-one risk factor for death globally and the number-two risk factor for disability," said Norm Campbell, a professor of medicine at the University of Calgary and chairman of the PAHO/WHO expert group. "Salt consumption is driving up blood pressure in people of all ages, and lowering salt intake at the population level is among the most cost-effective ways to reduce chronic disease."
In the Americas, from one-fifth to one-third of all adults have hypertension. Left untreated, the condition can lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. Worldwide, hypertension accounts for about 10 percent of all healthcare expenditures.
Members of the expert group said reducing salt consumption at the population level requires an investment of as little as 4 cents per person per year, making it one of the most cost-effective measures for reducing chronic diseases.
The experts emphasized that adding salt at the table is not the only problem. In most populations, the largest amount of dietary salt comes from ready-made and prepared foods, including processed meats, canned foods, cookies and crackers, breads, and even breakfast cereals.
The experts applauded food processors who have already begun to lower salt content in their products. But they noted that others have yet to take action and called for across-the-board reformulation of products to achieve a "gradual and sustained reduction" in salt content and to make sure that all new food products are inherently low in salt.
The group's statement, issued today in Santiago, Chile, included these specific recommendations for action by governments, nongovernmental organizations, and PAHO/WHO:
A similar expert group convened by PAHO in 2007 called for the elimination of trans fatty acids from industrially processed foods throughout the Americas (see link below).
PAHO was established in 1902 and is the world's oldest public health organization. It works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of the people of the Americas and serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Links of interest
Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization