A recent HealthFocus International study revealed significant confusion and concern among U.S. consumers regarding acceptable sodium levels in the foods and beverages they regularly consume. While nearly two-thirds (65%) of all consumers express some concern about sodium intake, 79% do not know that the recommended daily intake is 1500-2400mg.
These results are echoed in a new study HealthFocus conducted among consumers in the U.K., where 82% do not know salt intake should be less than 6 grams per day. And, according to the study, consumers that already have high blood pressure are not any more knowledgeable about appropriate levels of salt intake.
Among those in the UK study who are concerned about their salt intake, high blood pressure was their number one reason for concern at 19%, followed closely by bloating and water weight gain (16%). In both the U.S. and UK, bloating and water weight gain actually outranks high blood pressure as the key concern around excess sodium for females.
Sodium is expected to have an ongoing negative health impact. Despite the Healthy People 2010 goal of reducing the prevalence of high blood pressure in the U.S. to 16%, a recently published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association of the latest National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data shows that high blood pressure rates are not decreasing. In fact, rates have remained at 28% since 1999-2000, which is an increase from the 1988 – 1994 rate of 24%.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), people in the U.S. consume over twice the amount of sodium recommended by AHA to prevent or lower high blood pressure. Data from HealthFocus show that in spite of the lack of knowledge, three quarters of U.S. shoppers do report interest in sodium and its effect on high blood pressure, with a similar number wanting to know about the link between potassium and high blood pressure as well. Both of these topics are of much greater interest to lower income shoppers, who also report much more concern about high blood pressure than total shoppers (60% vs. 47%). Forty percent more shoppers with incomes under $25,000 also report being personally affected by high blood pressure compared to those with incomes over $75,000.
Significant efforts are underway in both countries to limit sodium and salt intake. Results from the HealthFocus International studies suggest efforts need to go toward increased education at all income levels about appropriate levels of intake and the risks of overindulgence.