All About Sodium

Although the amount of sodium in foods – especially processed foods, which contain most sodium in the food supply – and its links to heart disease and stroke risk has been under scrutiny lately, this has been a week of red carpet attention for the substance.

In 2008, Congress commissioned the The Institute of Medicine (IOM) to recommend ways to get the sodium intakes in the U.S. down 30%  to levels recommended by the 2005 Dietary Guidelines (2,300mg/day vs. the 3,400mg/day consumed on average). Yesterday, the IOM released a report that concluded reducing sodium content in food is extremely important and requires new government standards by the FDA (in concert with other agencies) for the accept­able/safe level of sodium intakes, with the cooperation of food manufacturers and restaurants. IOM noted that population-wide decreases in sodium intake could prevent 100,000 deaths a year in the U.S.

They noted that current levels of sodium in the food supply are “too high to be safe.” They recommend a gradual reduction of sodium in the food supply, so that the change is less noticed by most folks and allows their taste sensations to adjust slowly.

Some speculate that the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, due at the end of the year, may call for even lower sodium intakes. Since sodium is everywhere, especially in processed and restaurant foods, IOM has a great point that cutting sodium population-wide will really require a change in Americans’ eating habits and palates.

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