CDC: Excess sodium intake remains common in the U.S.

January 11, 2016

A report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) shows that nearly all Americans—regardless of age, race, gender, or whether they have high blood pressure (hypertension)—consume more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet. In fact, more than 90% of children and 89% of adults aged 19 and older eat more sodium than the recommended limits in the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, not including salt added at the table.

CDC researchers analyzed dietary data from the 2009–2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) to calculate how much sodium Americans are eating. Nearly 15,000 people were included in this study. The newly released guidelines recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day for people aged 14 and older and less for those younger.

Excess sodium intake is a problem across gender, race, and health status; however, there were some differences seen in the report:

  • Among adults, a larger proportion of men (98%) than women (80%) consume too much sodium.
  • About 90% of adult Caucasians consume excess sodium compared with 85% of African Americans.
  • Estimated sodium and calorie consumption peaks between the ages of 19 and 50.
  • Among people at greater risk of developing heart disease or stroke—such as people aged 51 and older, African Americans, and individuals with high blood pressure or pre-hypertension (blood pressure higher than normal but not in the “high” range)—more than three out of four exceed 2,300 mg per day.
  • Adults with hypertension consume slightly less sodium than other adults, and may be trying to follow physicians’ advice to reduce sodium. However, 86% of adults with hypertension still consume too much.

These new findings show that little has changed in sodium consumption over the past decade. More than three quarters of sodium in the American diet is estimated to come from processed and restaurant food, which gives consumers little choice when it comes to lowering daily intake. A key strategy for lowering population-wide sodium intake is gradually reducing sodium in the food supply. Some food companies have begun to voluntarily reduce sodium in their products and others are being encouraged to take similar steps.

“The finding that nine of 10 adults and children still consume too much salt is alarming,” said Tom Frieden, CDC director. “The evidence is clear: too much sodium in our foods leads to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Reducing sodium in manufactured and restaurant foods will give consumers more choice and save lives.”

Press release