Attitudes towards salt intake still an issue, survey reveals

By Liza Laws

- Last updated on GMT

 © Getty Images
© Getty Images

Related tags Sodium intake Salt intake low-sodium diet

Consumers are blaming food producers for their salt intake rather than taking responsibility themselves, the results of a survey suggest.

The Ajinomoto Group is a company dedicated to solving global nutrition issues in a bid to help people to reduce how much salt they consume. The survey aptly named SALTS (Salt Alternative and Long-Term Solution) was conducted across seven markets in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific between August and September 2021.

Its aim was to try and understand consumers’ attitudes towards sodium and identify ways to reduce it day to day.  

The results published in March 2022 showed that while most consumers recognise various health benefits associated with reducing their sodium intake, they did not recognise it as a concern that impacts them personally.

For this research, 7,090 interviews were fielded via an online survey among a nationally representative sample in the UK, the US, France, Japan, Indonesia and Brazil. As well as getting a demographic representative sample in each country, half were above the country’s median income and half were below.

Overall, 64% of consumers knew that eating too much sodium was bad for their health but only 37% paid attention to how much they were absorbing. The results showed that 55% said low-sodium food is tasteless while 83% would prioritise taste above all else while 68% said that they wished healthier food options were more affordable.

Tia Rains, from Ajinomoto, said: “Successfully driving sodium reduction will require cooperation across food and beverage companies, governments and health professionals with the ultimate goal to encourage diets that are both nutritious and great tasting while meeting sodium targets.”

Excessive consumption of salt, more than 5 gm per day, raises blood pressure – a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and strokes, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) European Region reports that it is the leading cause of death. Many countries have initiated national salt-reduction strategies, including public awareness campaigns, reformulation activities and front-of-pack nutrition labelling.

However, despite ongoing efforts, the WHO says surveillance data indicates that salt intake still far exceeds the limits recommended to protect health. More strenuous efforts are needed to develop effective salt-reduction programmes.

More positively in England, salt reduction has been high on the Food Standard’s Agency’s agenda for a long time. The 2003 to 2018 salt reduction programme in England achieved an overall salt intake reduction of 1 gm/day per adult, from 9.38 grams/day in 2000 to 8.38 grams/day in 2018 researchers at Queen Mary University of London report​.

They said that if 2018 salt intake levels are maintained, by 2050 the programme would have led to 193,870 fewer adults developing premature cardiovascular disease (comprising 83,140 cases of premature ischemic heart disease and 110,730 premature strokes), and £1.64 billion of health care cost savings for the adult population of England.

If the WHO recommended salt intake of 5 grams/day is achieved by 2030 in England, these benefits could double, preventing a further 213,880 premature cardiovascular disease cases and further health and social care savings to the UK government of £5.33 billion.

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