Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has released the first ever Global report on sodium intake reduction.
Reducing sodium intake is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve health and reduce the burden of noncommunicable diseases, as it can avert a large number of cardiovascular events and deaths at very low total programme costs.
WHO recommends several sodium-related best buys policies as practical actions that should be undertaken immediately, to prevent cardiovascular disease and its associated costs. These include
- lowering sodium content in food products;
- implementing front-of-pack labelling to help consumers select food products with lower sodium content;
- conducting mass media campaigns to alter consumer behaviour around sodium; and
- implementing public food procurement and service policies to reduce sodium content in food served or sold.
Sodium deficiency is extremely unlikely in healthy individuals; the minimum intake level required for physiological needs is not well established although it is estimated to be <500 mg/day sodium. Hence, most populations are consuming much more sodium than is physiologically necessary.
Accordingly, the WHO guideline recommends a reduction in sodium intake to reduce blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and coronary heart disease in adults. WHO recommends a maximum intake of <2000 mg/day sodium(<5 g/day salt) in adults.
All 194 Member States committed to reducing population sodium intake by 30% by 2025, demonstrating strong consensus on sodium reduction as a life-saving strategy.
The largest number of diet-related deaths, an estimated 1.89 million each year, is associated with excessive intake of sodium, a well-established cause of raised blood pressure and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
The global average sodium intake is estimated to be 4310 mg/day (10.78 g of salt per day), which far exceeds the physiological requirement and is more than double the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation of <2000 mg of sodium (equivalent to <5 g of salt) per day in adults.
While the primary health effect associated with a diet high in sodium is raised blood pressure, there is a growing body of evidence documenting the impact of high sodium intake on a range of other health outcomes, including gastric cancer, obesity, Ménière’s disease, and osteoporosis.
For the first time, WHO has documented progress to date on policies (through the Sodium Country Score Card) and their impact on intake and cardiovascular diseases.
Sodium Country Score
The Sodium Country Score Card monitors a country’s progress in making national commitments and taking a multifaceted approach to implementing policies to reduce sodium intake.
The Score Card depicts countries that
- have made a national policy commitment towards sodium reduction (Score 1)
- have implemented voluntary measures to reduce sodium in the food supply or encourage consumers to make healthier food choices (Score 2)
- have implemented mandatory declaration of sodium on pre-packaged food and implement at least one mandatory measure for sodium reduction (Score 3)
- have implemented mandatory declaration of sodium on pre-packaged food and implement multiple mandatory measures for sodium reduction as well as all the sodium-related WHO Best Buys for tackling NCDs (Score 4).
- have adopted mandatory measures for sodium reduction that will bring country to Score 3 or 4, but where not all have yet gone into effect (measures adopted but not yet in effect)
As of October 2022, 5% of Member States (n = 9) have implemented at least two mandatory sodium reduction policies and other measures, and all WHO sodium-related best buys for tackling noncommunicable diseases.
A further 22% of Member States (n = 43) have implemented at least one mandatory policy or measure.
At the same time, 33% of the remaining Member States (n = 64) have implemented at least one voluntary policy and other measures to reduce sodium intake, while 29% (n = 56) have made a policy commitment towards sodium reduction.
Link to the related WHO news release:
Link to the Global Report on Sodium intake Reduction
Link to related WHO podcast:
Link to Sodium Country Score Cards: