SALT: We Still Need to Talk
Weight gain, premature ageing, tooth decay, hyperactivity, liver problems and the rest, it is undisputable that sugar really has become public enemy number one. Numerous government reports followed by George Osborne’s sugar levy on the soft drinks industry have done little but reinforce this.
However, caught up in this heavily publicised ‘War on Sugar’, it seems we have brushed under the carpet an equally damaging former public health enemy: sodium chloride – otherwise known as salt. Such is the prevalence of sugar as the public health threat of the decade, one would be forgiven for forgetting all about salt and its damaging effects on health entirely.
The reality remains that salt still exists, and is as damaging to our health as it ever was. Not only is it extremely harmful, being linked to 2.3 million heart-related deaths each year according to the 2010 Global Burden of Diseases Study, but it is everywhere.
Many foods are known to be high in salt, including bacon; cheese; prawns and many other seafood products. Even more harmfully, it is frequently hidden in many other foods as an additive – such as ready meals, pizza, pasta and even breakfast cereals – foods the general public would not necessarily expect to contain it.
The amount of negative health effects associated with salt is phenomenal, yet caught up in horror stories about sugar they are all but forgotten. As sodium intake rises, so does blood pressure, with 1 in 3 US and UK adults suffering from high blood pressure, placing them at an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases – the leading cause of death in the United States.
So far, some action has been taken to reduce consumption of salt and raise awareness of the dangers: 2013 guidelines meant food packaging had to declare contents as ‘salt’ rather than ‘sodium’, which many believe has led to confusion regarding whether an item contains salt. However, when faced with the magnitude of the salt problem, this is unlikely to have real effect.
The major salt substitute, potassium, which was once billed as a saviour when it came to salt reduction, has also been found to have adverse effects. Whilst it was believed to give the sensation of ‘saltiness’ and even counteract the effects of salt through decreasing blood pressure, its overuse has been found to contribute towards kidney disease and even heart complications.
Despite the dangers of sodium, however, we have come a long way. The industry has made good strides so far on publicising the dangers of salt, and the promotion and development of low-salt products. Also, this is not to say that sugar is not harmful. The correct thing to do would be to keep up the good work regarding both sugar and salt, viewing the two as twin evils without getting side-tracked by the dangers of one over the other.
If you would like to discuss salt and its dangers or find out about the market for any alternatives, please call on 01803 203387 or email us at [email protected].