Dar es Salaam — As the world marked a Salt Intake Reduction Week between March 8 and March 14, experts warned that excessive intake of salt could lead to serious health problems.
Nutritional experts told The Citizen that, despite salt being an avenue to provide bodies with iodine, excessive intake could lead to hypertension, as well as heart and kidney related diseases.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) requires that an average of five and six grammes of salt should be consumed by a person per day. Urbanisation has brought a new feeding habit whereby people have been adding salt even to maize, avocado, cucumbers, mangoes etc on top of industrial processed food. Fried Irish potatoes, fish, beef, vegetables and baking powder named food with higher salt levels.
WHO specified that high sodium consumption (>2 grams/day, equivalent to 5g salt/day) and insufficient potassium intake (less than 3.5 grams/day) leads to hypertension and subject people to risks of stroke and heart diseases.
“Salt is the main source of sodium in our diets, although it can come from sodium glutamate, used as a condiment in many parts of the world,” WHO says.
However, WHO says most people consume an average of nine to 12 grams of salt per day, saying for adults salt intake of less than five grams per day reduces blood pressure as well as risks of cardiovascular diseases, stroke and coronary heart attack.
“WHO member states have agreed to reduce salt intake by 30 percent reaching 2025,” says the global body, saying reducing salt intake has been identified as one of the most cost-effective measures countries can take to improve population health outcomes.
An estimated 2.5 million deaths could be prevented annually upon reduction of global salt consumption to recommended levels.
A nutrition expert, Ms Anna John said it is recommended to consume iodated salt in order to promote body and brain growth, noting however the amount should be limited. “Those who can refrain from consuming the substance could benefit because a small amount of salt is required in order to distance from risks of contracting Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs),” she said. She said excessive salt in the blood system overworks the kidney to filter off surplus salt in blood.
She was supported by the Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre (TFNC) research officer, Ms Adelina Munuo who suggested the need for alternative means of getting food tests could be used instead of more salts.
“Citizens should avoid high salt food and avoid adding table salt to cooked food,” she said.
WHO recommends governments to pass fiscal policies and regulation to ensure food manufacturers and retailers produce healthier foods and make them available and affordable.
“They should work with the private sector to improve availability and accessibility of low-salt products and raise consumer awareness on the need to reduce salt intake.”