Guadagnare Salute

Epidemiologia e prevenzione delle malattie cerebro e cardiovascolari


Prevention and lifestyle

How can I limit the consumption of sodium?

Changing your eating habits overnight is not easy. Getting used to consuming less "salty" foods is instead easier: [1,2] you can start from minimum goals to achieve goals that require more and more effort over time, as suggested in the diagram below.


It is important to read carefully the nutritional label of the products you buy to choose, in each category, the products with the lowest salt content, i.e. less than 0.3 grams (corresponding to 0.12 g of sodium) per 100 grams of product.


Children: less salt = less obesity?

It is known that teenagers eating more salty, are also those most drinking carbonated and sugary drinks, which can contribute to excess weight. A national survey in the UK of more than 2000 children and adolescents (4-18 years old), who were asked to write down in a diary all the food and drink consumed in a week and to weigh the quantities, showed that those who consumed saltier food, also consumed more carbonated and sweetened drinks. [3] The authors of this survey estimate that by reducing the amount of salt consumed by half there would be 15 fewer obese people per 100 children and adolescents. Therefore, it would be important for children and adolescents diet to choose the lowest sodium content of industrial ready-to-eat foods, as well as to avoid salt additions in food preparation.


From an early age, children should also avoid getting used to excessive amounts of salt, thus limiting the risk of being hypertensive as adults, as also suggested by experts from the UK Department of Health. [4]


In this way you also learn to recognize the true taste of food, often disguised as salt.


Hyposodium salt: is it really an alternative?

So-called hyposodium salts or "salt substitutes" generally have one third the amount of sodium compared to table salt.


In these products sodium is partly replaced by potassium, and healthy people can use it safely because the amount of potassium that can be taken in a day is about 3 times more than sodium.

Some people, however, must be careful with the use of these salts: they are for example those who suffer from kidney disease and diabetes, and those who take drugs that decrease the elimination of potassium. For this reason, the use of these products should be evaluated with your doctor, checking whether there are reasons to avoid their use.


Getting used to less salty flavors: what clinical studies say

There are few studies available on the effects of salt variations on taste perception, and systematic reviews of the scientific literature are lacking. The few available evidence suggests, however, that taste tends to quickly become accustomed to less salty foods and people tend to appreciate them more than salty ones. For example, a randomised study with 110 volunteers showed that the reduction of a quarter in the amount of sodium in bread, carried out gradually over a short period of time (6 weeks), was not perceived: the participating volunteers could not distinguish the lower salt content compared to the bread received in each of the previous weeks. [1]


Another (non-randomized) study of 76 volunteers showed that those on a normal salt diet prefer less salty foods (choosing them at the expense of saltier ones) after a few weeks compared to those on a low sodium diet. [2]


Read more

  1. Girgis S et alA one-quarter reduction in the salt content of bread can be made without detectionEur J Clin Nutr 2003;57: 616 – 20.
  2. Blais CE et alEffects of dietary sodium restriction on taste responses to sodium cloride: a longitudinal studyAm J Clin Nutr 1986;44:232-43
  3. Salt and health. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition 2003. Published for the Food Standards Agency and the Department of Health of the United Kingdom. (pdf 373 kb)
  4. He FJ, Marrero NM, MacGregor GA. Salt Intake Is Related to Soft Drink Consumption in Children and Adolescents: a Link to Obesity? Hypertension 2008;51;629-34


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