Americans Have Been Overdosing on Sodium

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Excess sodium intake among Americans remained high over past decade

December 19, 2013 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

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(dailyRx News) A pinch of salt can liven up any dish, and sodium exists in nearly every food we eat. But Americans may love their salt a little too much.

A recent report found that the vast majority of Americans consumed far too much sodium on a daily basis.

Well over 90 percent of teens and adults in the US were getting excess levels of sodium from their diet every day, based on standards by a national health authority.

Even the majority of children, all the way down to age 1, were consuming too much sodium.

The high levels of sodium are putting more Americans at risk for high blood pressure, the researchers warned.

"Reduce your sodium intake."

This study, led by Alicia Carriquiry, PhD, of Iowa State University, assessed sodium intake among Americans for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 2003 through 2010.

These surveys included a combined 34,916 nationally representative participants who were at least 1 year old.

The surveys included asking participants (or their parents for participants under age 12) in person about everything they had eaten in the previous 24 hours. They were then called on the phone three to 10 days later to provide another 24-hour recall of their diet.

Sodium levels for the diets reported were estimated (excluding any salt added at the table or any supplements) using the US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies and accounting for typical variations in a person's day-to-day diet.

The researchers determined what percentage of respondents were getting a daily sodium intake above the levels considered appropriate by the Institute of Medicine.

Excess sodium intake defined by the Institute of Medicine means the following:

  • more than 1,500 mg per day for children aged 1 to 3
  • more than 1,900 mg per day for children aged 4 to 8
  • more than 2,200 mg per day for children aged 9 to 13
  • more than 2,300 mg per day for any person aged 14 or older

From 2007 to 2010, about 79 percent of children aged 1 to 3 and 95 percent of adults aged 19 to 50 were consuming more than the upper limits of recommended daily sodium intake.

Across the full time frame from 2003 to 2010, the researchers found a very small decrease in overall daily sodium intake among children aged 1 to 13.

The percentage dropped from 84 percent to 79 percent among toddlers, 97 to 92 percent for children aged 4 to 8 and 97 to 94 percent for those aged 9 to 13.

There were no significant reductions in daily sodium consumption seen among those aged 14 and older.

Among those aged 51 and older, excess sodium consumption remained fairly steady, with 89 percent of respondents in 2003-2006 and 90 percent of respondents in 2007-2010 consuming more sodium than recommended each day.

"Small reductions in sodium intake might be related to declines in average energy consumption, rather than changes in the amount of sodium per calorie in foods consumed," the researchers suggested.

"Given that average energy and sodium intakes have changed little over time, coupling efforts to reduce obesity with efforts to reduce the sodium content per calorie in foods might accelerate reductions in sodium consumed," they said.

One primary health risk associated with excess sodium intake is high blood pressure.

The researchers estimated that about 8 of every 10 children aged 1 to 3, and 9 out of 10 US residents aged 4 and older, are at risk for potentially high blood pressure based on their currently excessive consumption of sodium.

This report was published in the December 20 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The research was funded by the CDC. No disclosure were reported.

Review Date: 
December 19, 2013
Last Updated:
December 20, 2013