Cut the salt, cut the drinks

Related tags Soft drinks Hypertension Soft drink Water

According to researchers in the UK, if recommended daily intake of
salt were cut in half, it would cost billions to the drinks

According to researchers in the UK, if recommended daily intake of salt were cut in half, it would cost billions to the drinks industry, reports Salt is a risk factor in high blood pressure, which increases the chance of heart attack or stroke. Hypertension researcher Graham MacGregor and his team of researchers at St. George's Hospital Medical School in London have compared salt intake with urine volume, which reflects how much people drink. They predict that reducing salt consumption from the average daily 10 grams to the 5 grams recommended would cut daily fluid intake by approximately 350 millilitres per person, which is equivalent to one can of soda. "This will have a large impact on the sales of soft drinks, mineral water and beer,"​ says McGregor. Sales in the UK could be slashed by about 13 million soft drinks a year, says the team, since a quarter of fluid is consumed in this form. And in the United States, consumption could fall by 40 billion drinks. This revelation led MacGregor's team to suspect the motives of soft drink companies moving into the salted-snack market. Frito-Lay is owned by PepsiCo, and earlier this year, Coca-Cola announced a deal with Procter and Gamble over the potato-snack brand Pringles. However, Richard Laming of the British Soft Drink Association says making this sort of point in a scientific paper is out of place. "The idea there's a conspiracy is a bit hysterical,"​ he says. Sales of soft drinks in the UK are increasing at 3 to 5 per cent every year, yet "people aren't getting thirstier."​ Marketing and new brands are responsible for the increase, says Laming. Jakko Tuomilehto from National Public Health Institute in Helsinki, Finland disagrees: "There's a lot of cross-ownership, but the general public does not know it, it's inside knowledge to a few scientists."​ Salty snacks and sugary soft drinks are a huge contributing factor to increased obesity among young people, he says. Measuring the effects of salt intake on thirst is "very important from the public health point of view,"​ says Tuomilehto. He believes huge benefits would come from reduced salt consumption. "The evidence is becoming clearer and clearer. Public health people now have new tools to justify their recommendations."​ Salt consumption is not so obvious. Only a fifth of the amount consumed is added during cooking. Up to 85 per cent of the daily salt intake comes from processed foods. For example, breakfast cereals can contain surprisingly high doses of sodium. While it was once used as a preservative, salt is now added to boost flavour. MacGregor is part of a group called CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Hypertension), formed in 1996 with members of a UK government medical advisory committee.

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