WHO warns of high salt intake, urges member states to implement necessary measures

Taking high amounts of salt (sodium chloride) affects a person’s well-being. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a daily salt intake of fewer than 5 grams (one tablespoon) per day . The precise quantity is 2 grams. High sodium intake has been linked to cardiovascular diseases. Currently, the global average salt intake is estimated to be 10.8 grams per day according to the WHO, which is much more than the recommended amount. The WHO has a global target of lowering sodium intake by 30% by 2024.

Effects of taking too much salt

Taking sodium in excess amounts increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and premature death according to the WHO. Table salt contains sodium, which can also be found in processed foods.

Responding to a WHO global report on sodium intake reduction, WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus said “Unhealthy diets are a leading cause of death and disease globally, and excessive sodium intake is one of the main culprits.”

He added that most countries are yet to adopt any mandatory sodium reduction regulations, leaving people at risk of stroke, heart disease, and other health conditions. The director general urged countries to adopt and implement mandatory sodium reduction policies that meet the WHO Global Sodium Benchmarks. Food manufacturers are also urged to set ambitious sodium reduction targets in their products.

Importance of governments having sodium reduction policies

The WHO explain that having sodium reduction policies could save approximately 7 million lives globally by 2030. It is an important aspect in helping achieve the sustainable development goal of lowering deaths from non-communicable diseases.

Today, only nine countries have comprehensive policies to lower sodium intake. They include Brazil, Malaysia, Chile, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Mexico, Spain, Uruguay, and Saudi Arabia.

According to WHO, a comprehensive approach to reducing sodium intake includes the following measures.

· Reformulating foods to contain less salt, and setting targets for the sodium amounts in foods and meals.

· Establishing public food procurement policies to limit salt or sodium-rich foods in public institutions such as schools, workplaces, hospitals, and nursing homes.

· Front-of-package labeling that helps consumers sect products with lower sodium amounts.

· Behaviour change communication and mass media campaigns to reduce salt/sodium consumption.

Taking lower amounts of salt could help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Governments and food manufacturers should work towards lowering sodium intake through policies and checking sodium levels in products. 

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