‘Massive efforts’ are needed to reduce salt intake and protect lives, WHO says
The world is off-pace for achieving the goal of reducing sodium intake 30% by 2025, according to a first-of-its-kind report from the World Health Organization.
Although all 194 WHO member countries committed to the target set in 2013, only 5% have implemented comprehensive sodium-reduction policies, according to Thursday’s report.
“Progress has been slow and only a few countries have been able to reduce population sodium intake, but no one has been able to achieve the target,” Dr. Francesco Branca, director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, said in the report. “As such, it is being considered to extend the target to 2030.”
Sodium is an essential nutrient, but consuming too much increases a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke and premature death, accounting for nearly 2 million deaths around the world each year, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
The report says the estimated global average salt intake is 10.8 grams per day, more than double the WHO recommendation of less than 5 grams per day in adults.
The report evaluated country implementation of sodium-reduction policies with a “Sodium Country Score Card” ranging from 1 (the lowest level of implementation) to 4 (the highest level).
Only nine countries had a score of 4, meaning they had comprehensive sodium-reduction policies, according to WHO: Brazil, Chile, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Uruguay.
The United States scored 3 out of 4 for having at least one mandatory sodium policy and a declaration of sodium on pre-packaged food. About 22% of the member states had this score.
“The world needs action, and now, or many more people will experience disabling or deadly – but preventable – heart attacks and strokes.”
Dr. Laura Cobb, director of nutrition policy and surveillance at Resolve to Save Lives, says the US has led successful efforts reducing sodium in mandatory school meal guidelines, and she would like to see expanded national policies.
“The FDA has put into place voluntary targets – not mandatory but voluntary – targets for sodium reformulation,” she said.