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Global Health Recommends Lowering Dietary Salt Intake Due to Health Risks


Table salt, also known as common salt, primarily consists of sodium chloride (NaCl), a compound found within the broader category of salts.

In nature, table salt exists as mineral crystals, commonly referred to as rock salt or halite. It is abundant in seawater, constituting the main mineral component with approximately 35 grams per liter (1.2 oz) and a salinity of 3.5%. While salt is crucial for animal life, it is more prevalent in animal tissues than in plant tissues. Consequently, the traditional Bedouin diet, reliant on herds, requires little to no salt, whereas wheat-based diets necessitate nutritional supplements. Salinity plays a fundamental role in the human sense of taste. Additionally, salt has a long history as a seasoning and is vital for food preservation. Evidence suggests that salt processing dates back approximately 8,000 years, with ancient Romans, Greeks, Byzantines, Hittites, and Egyptians regarding salt as precious. Salt's value led to conflicts between nations and its use as a means to increase tax revenues. Furthermore, salt features in the rituals of some religions and various cultural practices.

The World Health Organization (WHO) advises reducing salt usage in food due to its health risks. According to WHO's first global report on sodium reduction, the world is falling short of its goal to reduce sodium intake by 30% by 2025. WHO states that excessive sodium consumption, primarily sourced from table salt (sodium chloride) and other seasonings like sodium glutamate, increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and premature death.

The report reveals that only 5% of WHO member countries have mandatory and comprehensive sodium reduction policies in place, while 73% lack sufficient measures to implement such policies fully. Implementing cost-effective sodium reduction policies could save an estimated 7 million lives globally by 2030 and contribute to achieving the sustainable development goal of reducing non-communicable disease-related deaths. Presently, only nine countries (Brazil, Chile, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Uruguay) have comprehensive policies recommended by WHO to reduce sodium intake.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, emphasizes the role of unhealthy diets, including excessive sodium intake, as leading causes of global death and disease. The report underscores that most countries lack mandatory sodium reduction policies, putting their populations at risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other health issues. WHO calls on all countries to adopt effective sodium reduction measures and urges manufacturers to adhere to WHO's sodium content standards in food products.

A comprehensive sodium reduction strategy includes mandatory policies and four WHO-recommended interventions:

  • Reformulating foods to reduce salt content and establishing sodium content targets.
  • Implementing public food procurement policies to limit high-sodium foods in institutions like hospitals, schools, and workplaces.
  • Front-of-package labeling to help consumers choose low-sodium products.
  • Behavior change communication and media campaigns to reduce salt/sodium consumption. Countries are encouraged to set sodium content targets for processed foods, aligning them with WHO global sodium standards.

Mandatory sodium reduction policies are deemed more effective, as they provide broader coverage and counteract commercial interests, creating a level playing field for food manufacturers.

The global average daily salt intake is approximately 10.8 grams, more than double WHO's recommended limit of less than 5 grams per day (equivalent to 1 teaspoon). Excessive salt consumption ranks as the leading risk factor for diet and nutrition-related deaths. Research also links high sodium intake to other health conditions such as stomach cancer, obesity, osteoporosis, and kidney disease.

WHO urges Member States to swiftly implement sodium reduction policies to counteract the harmful effects of excessive salt consumption and calls on food manufacturers to set ambitious sodium reduction targets.

Effects of white salt on general health:

Table salt, our primary daily seasoning, significantly impacts health due to its chemical processing stages that may alter mineral content and cause harm. Key concerns regarding white salt include:

Anti-caking agents, added to prevent clumping, may contain potentially carcinogenic aluminum, potentially leading to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
Salt undergoes heating during production at temperatures up to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit, resulting in the loss of essential minerals.
Synthetic chemicals and preservatives are added to salt, potentially becoming toxic with excessive consumption.

Salt is bleached to achieve its white color, while natural salt is not naturally white.

Excess salt intake disrupts fluid balance, leading to conditions like gout, kidney stones, gallstones, arthritis, and rheumatism due to water retention.
Table salt can lead to addiction, with prolonged use affecting the nervous system, blood circulation, and increasing the risk of high blood pressure, liver and heart disease, swelling, and muscle cramps.