Americans eat too much salt, CDC says

CHICAGO Thu Mar 26, 2009 5:37pm EDT

Workers collect salt in the Rui Simeao saltworks in Tavira in the southern province of Algarve July 18, 2008. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Workers collect salt in the Rui Simeao saltworks in Tavira in the southern province of Algarve July 18, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Nacho Doce

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - People in the United States consume more than twice the recommended amount of salt, raising their risk for high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes, government health experts said on Thursday.

They found nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults are in high-risk groups that would benefit from a lower-salt diet of no more than 1,500 mg per day, yet most consume closer to 3,500 mg per day.

"It's important for people to eat less salt. People who adopt a heart-healthy eating pattern that includes a diet low in sodium and rich in potassium and calcium can improve their blood pressure," Dr. Darwin Labarthe of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.

"People need to know their recommended daily sodium limit and take action to reduce sodium intake," Labarthe said.

The study in CDC's weekly report on death and disease used national survey data to show that two out of three adults should be consuming no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day because they are black or over the age of 40 -- which are considered high-risk groups.

Yet studies show most people in the United States eat 3,436 mg of sodium per day, according to a 2005-2006 CDC estimate.

Most of the sodium eaten comes from packaged, processed and restaurant foods. The CDC said it will join other agencies in the Health and Human Services department in working with major food manufacturers and chain restaurants to reduce sodium levels in the food supply.

Nationwide, 16 million men and women have heart disease and 5.8 million are estimated to have had a stroke. Cutting salt consumption can reduce these risks, the CDC said.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults in general should consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium or about one teaspoon of salt per day.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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