Salt reduction: a life-saving strategy

19 April 2023

The global burden of unhealthy diets is a major public health and development challenge worldwide. Urgent action is required to modify the production and consumption of foods and beverages. Of greatest concern is excess consumption of sodium, sugars and unhealthy fats.

The largest number of diet-related deaths, 1.89 million each year, is associated with excessive intake of sodium, a well-established cause of raised blood pressure and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The global average salt intake is estimated to be 10.78 g, which far exceeds the physiological requirement and is more than double the World Health Organization recommendation of <5 g of salt per day. Reducing sodium intake is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve health and reduce the burden of noncommunicable diseases, as it can prevent many cardiovascular events and deaths at very low total programme costs.

WHO recommends several sodium-related best buys policies that should be undertaken:

  • lowering sodium content in food products;

  • implementing front-of-pack labelling to help consumers select food products with lower sodium content;

  • conducting mass media campaigns to alter consumer behaviour;

  • implementing public food procurement and service policies to reduce sodium content in food.

All 194 Member States committed to reducing population sodium intake by 30% by 2025, demonstrating strong consensus on sodium reduction as a life-saving strategy.

For the first time, WHO has documented progress to date on policies (the Sodium Country Score Card) and their impact on intake and cardiovascular diseases. As of October 2022, 5% of Member States have implemented at least 2 mandatory sodium reduction policies and all WHO sodium-related best buys for tackling noncommunicable diseases. A further 22% have implemented at least 1 mandatory policy or measure. The remaining 33% have implemented at least 1 voluntary policy to reduce sodium intake, while 29% have made a policy commitment towards sodium reduction.

The ultimate goal is that everybody realise their human right to safe, secure and nutritious food and the highest attainable standard of health.

Source: World Health Organization

Source: World Health Organization

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