How Much Salt is Too Much Salt?

Published on February 08, 2013


How Much Salt is Too Much Salt?

The majority of people are consuming almost double the recommended amount of sodium per day and most is ingested in the form of sodium chloride, which is table salt.

The American Heart Association advises adults to limit daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams, or about one teaspoon, but adults are taking in more than 4,000 milligrams.

  • The daily maximum for those with hypertension and those at risk of hypertension is 1,500 milligrams. Recent research has shown that people consuming diets of 1,500 milligrams of sodium had even better blood pressure lowering benefits.

Reducing the amount of sodium may help you reduce or avoid high blood pressure. Sodium makes the body hold on to fluid. To pump the added fluid, the heart has to work harder. Too much salt can worsen symptoms like swelling and shortness of breath and cause weight gain.

  • Those with high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke, the No. 1 and No. 3 killers in the United States today. Currently, one billion people globally and approximately 72 million Americans have high blood pressure.
  • International health experts have warned in a report that instances of uncontrolled hypertension will rise dramatically, triggering a global cardiovascular disease epidemic, unless governments and health care policymakers take immediate and wide-ranging corrective action. A predicted rise of 60% over the next 18 years – an estimated 1.56 billion people worldwide could be affected by the condition.
  • Consuming too much salt has been associated with stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and early death. Also, evidence has suggested links to stomach cancer and osteoporosis. Scientists have shown that salt has an adrenalin-inducing effect on people suffering from high blood pressure.
  • According to research, high-salt diets can trigger exercise-induced asthma. It was demonstrated that modifying salt intake for two weeks altered airway inflammation and the flow of oxygen into the blood stream.

After sugar, salt is the nation’s second leading food additive. In addition to its role as a flavor enhancer, salt is used to improve dough characteristics and yeast action in baked goods, to control ripening and bacterial growth in cheeses, and to cure and preserve fermented foods. Other sodium-containing additives in processed foods include baking powder, baking soda, MSG, soy, and milk solids.

  • In November of 2007, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the American Medical Association both pressed the FDA to revoke the GRAS (generally regarded as safe) status of salt. During the daylong public hearing, both organizations demanded that the FDA should limit salt content in food and include a hypertension warning on salt’s labeling.
  • Research shows that parents are confused over the salt content of foods and the dangers of eating too much salt. Few of the 2,000 polled by Consensus Action on Salt and Health knew that popular sweet foods can contain more salt than snacks associated with salt.
  • Seventy-six percent of meals eaten by Americans are prepared and eaten at home. Processed foods account for most of the sodium and salt consumed. Americans get up to 75 percent of their sodium from processed foods like tomato sauce, soups, condiments, canned foods, and prepared mixes. Pickled, cured, smoked, soy sauce, and broth can indicate that a dish is high in sodium.

Trimming the salt content in processed and restaurant foods by half would save a minimum of 150,000 lives a year. The American Medical Association has urged the U.S. government to encourage food makers to reduce salt content by 50 percent over the next 10 years.

Sources: American Heart Association, Mayo Clinic, BBC News, MedScape Today, New York Times, Medical News Today, Indiana University, Medical Research News, National Heart Lung & Blood Institute, Medpage Today, and Washington and Shady GroveAdventistHospitals. For additional information, consult your physician.

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