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J Health Commun. 2011 Aug;16 Suppl 2:37-48. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2011.601227.

Reducing salt intake in the Americas: Pan American Health Organization actions.

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  • 1Pan American Health Organization, Washington, District of Columbia 20037, USA.


This article outlines the rationale for reducing dietary salt and some of the Pan American Health Organization actions to facilitate reductions in dietary salt in the Americas. Excessive dietary salt (sodium chloride and other sodium salts) is a major cause of increased blood pressure, which increases risk for stroke, heart disease, and kidney disease. Reduction in salt intake is beneficial for people with hypertension and those with normal blood pressure. The World Health Organization recommends a population salt intake of less than 5 grams/person/day with a Pan American Health Organization expert group recommendation that this be achieved by 2020 in the Americas. In general, the consumption of salt is more than 6 grams/day by age 5 years, with consumption of salt averaging between 9 and 12 grams per day in many countries. Recent salt intake estimates from Brazil (11 grams of salt/day), Argentina (12 grams of salt/day), Chile (9 grams of salt/day) and the United States (8.7 grams of salt/day) confirm that high salt intakes are prevalent in Americas. Sources of dietary salt vary, from 75% of it coming from processed food in developed countries, to 70% coming from discretionary salt added in cooking or at the table in parts of Brazil. The Pan American Health Organization has launched a regionwide initiative called the ?Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Through Dietary Salt Reduction,? led by an expert working group. Working closely with countries, the expert group developed resources to aid policy development through five subgroups: (a) addressing industry engagement and product reformulation; (b) advocacy and communication; (c) surveillance of salt intake, sources of salt in the diet, and knowledge and opinions on salt and health; (d) salt fortification with iodine; and (e) national-level health economic studies on salt reduction.

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