Health

Doctor explains new study on salt substitutes, plus swaps to decrease sodium

A new study evaluating older adults at high risk of heart attack or stroke found that salt substitutions may be linked to a lower risk of death, particularly from heart disease and stroke.

The study was a meta-analysis of several studies primarily based in Asia, where experts say cuisine and food culture likely facilitate the use of salt substitutes. Here in the United States, people get about 70 percent of their sodium intake from packaged and prepared foods — not from table salt added to foods during cooking, according to the American Heart Association.

Still, experts say the findings, published Tuesday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, could serve as a useful reminder about excess sodium and help people explore possible alternatives.

“The average American eats 3,400 milligrams of salt (per day). The recommended amount is about 2,300 milligrams (per day),” explained ABC News medical correspondent Dr. Darien Sutton, citing the American Heart Association, which also encourages “an ideal limit.” of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults, especially those with high blood pressure. »

“More than 97 percent of people don’t know how much — or underestimate how much — sodium is in their diet,” Sutton said.

Diets high in sodium cause more than 2 million deaths worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization.

Not all adults have an urgent medical need to replace salt in their diet. The new study was specific to people at higher risk of heart attack and stroke. People at high risk should talk to their doctor about ways to reduce salt in their diet. And the first step is often to examine the label of any packaged food.

For example, Sutton pointed to a bowl of Doritos tortilla chips, saying just 12 contain “about 200 milligrams” of sodium.

“If you look at the bag itself, there are 15 servings in one of those regular bags,” he said. “That equates to over 3,000 milligrams of sodium. You need to make sure you’re watching your sodium, and the majority of it comes from processed foods.”

One recommendation shared by Sutton is to “eat regularly today, categorize or quantify the amount of sodium you consume and then, at the end of the day, figure out how to do better.”

Plus, he suggested being smart with nutritious ways to add flavor instead of salt.

“Most of the time, if you remove sodium from our foods, most people won’t recognize it, especially if you add other (ingredients),” he said, suggesting substitutes such as paprika, ground pepper, onion powder, cinnamon, ginger or garlic.

This week’s analysis highlighted what many already know, Sutton said, that salt can harm our health.

“It was a meta-analysis that involved many different studies at once, looking at older populations in Asia, particularly those who were at higher risk. And it found that reducing sodium during six months significantly reduced the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease,” Sutton said. “You need to make sure you monitor your sodium intake to reduce your risks and improve your quality of life as you age.”

When it comes to adjusting your salt intake, Sutton advises tracking the amount you eat by writing it down and adding more nutritional options.

“Potassium can help blunt the effect of sodium in our body, helping us manage our blood pressure,” he said. “So leafy greens, bananas, sweet potatoes, you want to add those in, eat less processed foods and watch your sodium.”

ABC News’ Sony Salzman contributed to this report.

News Source : abcnews.go.com
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