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Action on Salt

SACN Salt and Health report (August 2003)

The Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA) investigated the relationship between salt and blood pressure in 1994 as part of their report on the Nutritional Aspects of Cardiovascular Disease. In this report, COMA recommended that adults decrease their salt intake from 9g to 6g per day and for children a similar decrease was recommended, yet insufficient data was available for detailed recommendations.

Following this, in 2003 the Food Standards Agency and the Chief Medical Officer of Wales asked the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) to review evidence produced since 1994 and to consider making recommendations for children as well.

For this report, SACN investigated the body's requirements for salt, salt sensitivity, the effects of salt on blood pressure and morbidity and premature mortality outcomes. SACN concluded that the Dietary Reference Values for salt remain the same as in 1994, with an adult target salt intake of 6g per day. For infants and children, SACN set the daily average salt intake target at less than 1g / day for 0-6 month olds, 1g / day for 7-12 month olds, 2g / day for 1-3 year olds, 3g / day for 4-6 year olds, 5g / day for 7-10 year olds and 6g / day for 11-14 year olds. It is important to note that the targets set for both adults and children do not represent optimal levels - they are achievable consumption levels.

SACN concluded that salt consumed in excess is linked to high blood pressure, which is a strong risk factor for cardiovascular disease. In children, SACN concluded that long-term consumption of salt at the current average levels for adults will potentially have harmful effects in the long-run. Thus, SACN recommended that children would benefit from reducing their salt intake too.

On a population level, SACN noted that the most significant reductions in blood pressure were observed when individuals switched to well-balanced, healthy diets rich in fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates and low-fat dairy products accompanied by a conscious reduction in the consumption of saturated fats, total fats and salt. In order to achieve the recommended levels of salt intake for both adults and children on a population level, SACN recommended a population based approach in co-operation with food manufacturers, retailers and caterers to enable a substantial decrease in the current average salt intake.

Click here to read the full report

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