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Consumers eating 33 percent more salt than they should: study

SYDNEY, May 17, 2017 (BSS/XINHUA) -- People are consuming far too much salt in their diets, according to a study released Wednesday, which found that participants were eating over 33 percent more salt in their diets than they had thought, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Jacqui Webster, associate professor at the George Institute for Global Health told Xinhua on Wednesday that their research took them to the Australian city of Lithgow, where 400 subjects were tested after consuming foods over a 24 hour period.

Webster said that after conducting urine analysis on the subjects, it was discovered they were consuming 9 grams of salt per day, but thought they were only consuming 6.8 grams of salt, and that this data is also representative of wider results conducted elsewhere.

"That's what is so interesting about the study, we did the study in Lithgow, but then we also compared it to the Australian Health Survey data," Webster said.

"Based on the dietary survey which was done in a fairly similar way in Lithgow, and in the Australian Health Survey, we got very similar results."

One potential reason for this could stem from the fact that salt is labelled as sodium in many countries around the world, including Australia where the study was conducted, and according to the the National Heart Foundation of Australia, to work out the salt levels in food requires multiplying the sodium amount by 2.5, which represents the amount of salt found in the food.

This can be confusing for consumers, and Webster said that in some jurisdictions, like the United Kingdom, they also label the salt content in their food products.

"There's an argument, and certainly in the UK they label salt as well, because more people understand salt than sodium," Webster said.

In Australia where the study was conducted, a "Health Star Rating" system is used on the front of food packaging, but Webster said that although this system does assist in educating consumers about the levels of salt in foods, it is also tied into to other nutritional aspects of the food composition.

"I think it can be improved. On the whole it is a useful scheme, but we need to be making sure that some of the outliers are addressed," Webster said.

"It is very challenging, because of the complexity of foods."

The Heart Foundation recommends that in order to reduce blood pressure, and lower the risk of heart disease, adults should "eat less than 6 grams of salt (2400 mg of sodium) per day," which Webster said requires more of a coordinated strategy directed at the food industry as a whole.

"The primary focus should be getting the food industry to reduce salt in foods, and also in meals because more and more people are eating out," Webster said.

"In addition, we need a really comprehensive focus and marketing campaign to really raise consumer awareness, and to really get the message across that salt is bad for health."