The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that more than 50 percent of the processed foods sold by U.S. grocery stores exceeded the recommended amount of sodium (salt).
An excess of salt could result in dreadful health outcomes such as kidney disease, high blood pressure, elevated risk of stroke and heart disease, authors of the report claim.
Linda Schieb, who is involved in the CDC research and an epidemiologist expert, said that she and her colleagues scrutinized several packaged food sales in national grocery stores.
“What we found was more than 50 percent of those products exceeded the FDA healthy food label guidelines for sodium,”
Dr. Schieb added.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s guidelines, prepackaged foods such as cheese, bread or cold cuts should not exceed 480 milligrams of sodium per serving if their producers want to label them as healthy. But there is an exception and 600 mg may qualify as a healthy sodium intake in products such as pastas, sandwiches or pizzas.
The research team studied prepackaged food products sold in 2009 by grocery stores from more than 50 markets and nine census divisions. This means that the study covered about half of the country’s population exposure to unhealthy grocery products.
However, Walmart products and those from warehouses were not included in the research.
Researchers learned that more than 70 percent of mixed dishes such as pasta and meat, meat loaf with BBQ sauce or pizza, as well as more than 50 percent of soups, sandwiches and cold cuts failed to comply with the FDA’s recommendations for a healthy labeling.
On the other hand, cheese, bread, and savory snacks scored better – only 10 percent failed to enter the healthy category.
Researchers also reported that there were no notable differences between the markets involved in the study with regard to their products’ salt content.
The preliminary findings of the CDC study were published Thursday in the medical journal Preventing Chronic Disease.
According to the updated version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults should limit their daily sodium intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams, which is the amount contained in a teaspoon.
However, people affected by high blood pressure, chronic kidney condition, diabetes, as well as African-Americans and seniors aged 51 or more should not consume more than 1,500 milligrams on a daily basis.
But that may be hard to do, as a packaged serving of soup and a turkey sandwich can easily exceed 2,000 mg, according to researchers.
Dr. Schieb also argued that Americans get their excess salt mostly from fast foods and processed foods.
So, consumers should carefully read food labels and choose what is right for them, Dr. Schieb recommended. She also said that Americans should eat more fresh fruit and vegetables, rather than going for processed foods.
Connie Diekman, a registered nutrition expert in St. Louis, said she wasn’t surprised by the findings. She explained that salt in packaged foods plays a key-role in preservation. Yet, she also acknowledged that the situation may have changed since 2009 when the CDC study was conducted as many food makers announced that they would decrease salt content in their products.
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