Controversy Over Salt in Food

December 11, 1981

Report Outline
Sodium and Hypertension
History and Usage of Salt
Controlling Sodium Intake
Special Focus

Sodium and Hypertension

Health Dangers of Excessive Salt Intake

Salt is a big issue in Washington these days. That's salt with a small “s,” the kind you sprinkle on food. Salt is the second leading food additive (behind sugar), and Americans consume a lot of it, an average of two to five teaspoons per day. It is the sodium content of salt that concerns health officials. Faced with mounting evidence linking excessive sodium consumption to hypertension (high blood pressure), the government has begun a campaign to get Americans to reduce their salt intake.

“During roughly the last 10 years there has been a gradual development of what I would call a national medical and biological consensus about the association between sodium and blood pressure,” said Dr. Allan L. Forbes, associate director for nutrition and food sciences in the Food and Drug Administration's Bureau of Foods. “That consensus has become national only in the last year or two.”

About 60 million Americans suffer from some form of hypertension. This includes a high percentage of blacks, about 37 percent, and those over 65, about 40 percent. Those who do not keep their blood pressure under control face an increased risk of strokes, heart attacks and kidney problems. High blood pressure is the primary cause of the approximately half-million cases of stroke and 170,000 stroke deaths that occur annually. And hypertension is a factor in many of the 1.25 million heart attacks suffered by Americans each year and the 650,000 heart attack deaths.

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