Salt: Too Much or Too Little?

July 21, 2010



Mindy Weinstein
IFT Media Relations

CHICAGO -- Too much or too little salt poses potential health risks, say experts, who noted that individual and societal efforts to curb salt intake should be gradual, with the ultimate goal of achieving a healthy balance.

"There is no shortage of data that says excess salt can be harmful, and that some individuals are more sensitive to its effects than others," said Edward Strickler, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh, and one of several researchers discussing sodium intake at the 2010 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo®. Conversely, however, too little salt, or the elimination or rapid reduction of salt in the daily diet, can cause heart problems and fragile bones, especially in athletes.

While the optimal daily salt intake is 2,300 milligrams (about 1.5 teaspoons) per day, the average American ingests more than 3,500 milligrams or approximately 50 percent too much salt.

"There should be a good balance, making sure we're not having too much, but also making sure we're not ingesting too little," said Strickler.
The Institutes of Medicine (IOM) recently recommended a gradual decrease in salt intake and that manufacturers remove "gratuitous salt" from food products (77 percent of salt is added in food processing).  The IOM also recommends that the federal government step-up public information efforts related to salt intake.

While a recent study found that 53 percent of consumers are concerned about their salt intake (up from 41 percent in 2009), nearly half of Americans do not how much salt intake is appropriate or healthy, said David B. Schmidt, president and CEO of the International Food Information Council (IFIC).

One problem is that there is a "disconnect" between consumers and the "functional role of salt in food," said Schmidt.

In addition to providing nutrition, salt in food products enhance taste and consistency, and can serve as a preservative and/or a leavening agent, according to Richard Black, vice president of global nutrition at Kraft Foods.

While lowering salt levels in food products is challenging, and salt substitutes are expensive and can alter taste, "We have to be able to solve this problem," said Black. "We will and should be held accountable."

Edward Strickler, Ph.D. –
David B. Schmidt
Richard Black, Ph.D. –


About IFT
The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is a nonprofit scientific society. Our individual members are professionals engaged in food science, food technology, and related professions in industry, academia, and government. IFT's mission is to advance the science of food, and our long-range vision is to ensure a safe and abundant food supply, contributing to healthier people everywhere.

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