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99 Percent of the World Consumes Too Much Salt

Update Date: Mar 22, 2013 12:33 PM EDT

Maybe it's time to hold the salt.

Salt is a flavor that most of us are used to having on our palate. In the past, it was also used to keep ingredients fresh for longer periods of time. But now, as Healthland reports, the majority of us are overdoing the  sodium intake - and it can have dire health consequences. An estimated 2.3 million people in the world died due to health problems related to eating too much salt, 40 percent of them premature.

The study, which was presented this week at the American Heart Association's 2013 Scientific Sessions, was based on research collected by researchers from 50 countries. The data was obtained from the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Survey, and used the responses that participants gave about their daily sodium intake between 1990 and 2010.

Adults said that they ate, on average, 4,000 milligrams of sodium, far exceeding the World Health Organization's recommended limit of 2,000 milligrams a day and the American Heart Association's limit of 1,500 milligrams a day. Of the 187 countries represented in the study, only seven, making up about 1 percent of the Earth's population, met WHO's limit. Kenya was the only country that managed to meet the limit set by the AHA.

At the same time, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 107 studies that sought to find a link between high salt intake and heart problems. Among people who died of strokes, heart attacks or related conditions, 40 percent of them were defined as premature, occurring in people under the age of 69. In addition, 84 percent of these deaths were linked to salt.

However, it is not just adults who need to watch out for excess sodium. About 75 percent of prepackaged meals marketed for children contained excess sodium. Defined as containing more than 210 milligrams of sodium in each serving, some toddler meals contained as much as 630 milligrams of sodium per serving - about 40 percent of the daily limit recommended for adults.

"Our concern is the possible long-term health risks of introducing high levels of sodium in a child's diet, because high blood pressure, as well as a preference for salty foods, may develop early in life. The less sodium in an infant's or toddler's diet, the less he or she may want it when older," lead author Joyce Maalouf said in a statement.

The Salt Institute called the study unscientific and said that it based its findings on excess salt on an unrealistically low level of salt intake.

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