New Salt Study: Americans Consume Way Too Much Sodium; What Foods Have The Highest Salt Content?

By Philip Ross on May 14, 2013 3:26 PM EDT

new salt study
The fast food industry is one of the saltiest industries in the U.S. food business. However, even among leading chains, sodium contents vary widely. A medium serving of McDonald’s French fries contains about 270 mg of sodium per 100 g serving; Burger King’s fries, however, contain more than twice that amount. (Photo: Flickr/sun dazed)

A new salt study corroborates what we've long known to be true: Americans consume way too much sodium. However, the new salt study also reports that the food industry's efforts to reduce sodium in their products have failed.

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The new salt study, conducted by researchers at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, or CSPI, and published in the May issue of the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, underlines the need to stifle the salt content in our diets, and notes that Americans consume more sodium now than they did 40 years ago.

New Salt Study Highlights Failures In Food Industry

The study is somewhat unflattering for fast-food chains, restaurants and processed food companies, because it highlights their disregard for health organizations' calls to limit the sodium content of their foods.

In a press release from Monday, the center stated that between the years 2005 and 2011, food manufacturers did not make much progress in reducing sodium levels in packaged and restaurant foods. For example, the average sodium in 12 varieties of BBQ sauce increased by 6.3 percent over those years, and the average sodium in 11 different kinds of Caesar salad dressing increased by 3.7 percent. From the press release:

CSPI found that sodium levels varied widely among brands of similar products. One brand of tomato paste had more than five times as much sodium as the brand with the least, and ounce for ounce, McDonald's Quarter Pounder with Cheese had 34 percent more sodium than Burger King's similar Original Whopper with Cheese, for instance. That suggests that companies at the higher end in sodium could easily reduce levels and still have highly marketable foods.

Nine Out Of Ten Americans Consume Too Much Salt

Most of the sodium in our diet comes directly from salt. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, adults should consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day -- the equivalent of about 1 teaspoon of salt (table salt is about 40 percent sodium). People 51 years of age or older, African Americans, those with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney failure, should consume even less, about 1,500 mg of sodium a day, according to the CDC.

Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, both of which are leading causes of death in the U.S.

According to one report from the CDC, nine out of 10 American adults have too much sodium in their diets and consume, on average, 50 percent more sodium than is recommended.

What Are The Saltiest Foods Out There?

The CDC notes that 77 percent of dietary sodium comes from processed and restaurant foods, many of which don't even taste salty.

According to the new salt study from CSPI, smoked bacon ranked at the top of the list with 1,803 mg of sodium per 100-gram serving. A fast food meal of chicken strips and fries had about 1,200 mg of salt, and hot dogs had on average 927 mg.

The top ten sources of sodium in our diets, according to the CDC, are:

Breads and rolls

Luncheon meats

Pizza

Poultry

Soups

Cheeseburgers and sandwiches

Cheese

Pasta dishes

Meat dishes

Snack foods (like potato chips and pretzels)

While avoiding these foods all together is nearly impossible, it's important to keep the recommended daily intake of 2,300 mg of sodium a day in mind. Cutting back on processed food items, fast food and even eating out less are all ways to help reduce sodium intake.

"If all Americans followed the recommended limits for sodium, national rates for high blood pressure would drop by a quarter, saving tens of thousands of lives each year," the CDC reports.

Read more from iScience Times:

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