Background on Sodium Reduction

Sodium Hero

Sodium is an essential nutrient, which is required by the body in relatively small amounts, provided that excessive sweating does not occur. In the United States, the current sodium intake of 3,440 mg/day is considered to be too high by expert bodies, such as the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the American Heart Association, and Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committees.  The 2015—2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommends consumption of less than 2,300 mg/day of sodium for adults and children ages 14 years and older.  This recommendation is based on the evidence showing a linear dose-response relationship between increased sodium intake and increased blood pressure in adults. Additionally, moderate evidence suggests an association between increased sodium intake and increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in adults; however, this evidence is not as consistent as the evidence on blood pressure (HHS/USDA 2015).

Recently, based on the 2015—2020 DGA, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revised the Daily Reference Value for sodium intake to 2,300 mg for the purpose of labeling on the Nutrition Facts labels, effective July 2018 (FDA 2016a).  Additionally, the FDA has developed draft voluntary short-term and long-term goals for sodium reduction for a variety of food categories that are commercially processed, packaged, or prepared.  These goals are intended to address the excessive intake of sodium in the current population and promote improvements in public health.  Sodium reduction initiatives strive to reduce the consumption of dietary sodium, a modifiable risk factor for hypertension—the leading cause of heart disease and stroke (FDA 2016b). 

Sodium is primarily consumed as salt (sodium chloride), which is a critical food component that contributes to one or more important attributes, such as food preservation, shelf-life, and sensory qualities (e.g., savory flavor and food texture).  In addition to sodium chloride, other sodium-containing ingredients (e.g., monosodium glutamate, sodium bicarbonate, and sodium benzoate) have functional role(s) in foods and contribute, although in lesser amounts, to the total amount of sodium in the diet.  In an effort to reduce the sodium content in foods, food scientists and food technologists have been developing innovative technologies that may allow sodium reduction in a variety of products, while maintaining critical product quality attributes such as safety, shelf-life, texture, and taste, as well as regulatory compliance (IFT 2013, 2016). 

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