(NaturalNews) In response to a petition by the Center of Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the FDA held its first hearing to consider whether and how to regulate the salt content of processed foods. Excessive salt intake has been linked to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. According to the American Medical Association, a 50 percent salt reduction in processed and restaurant foods in the United States could save 150,000 lives per year.
While salt supplies sodium, an essential nutrient, the average U.S. sodium intake is far above the recommended healthy level. National dietary guidelines recommend that sodium intake be capped at 2,300 mg per day, and that the middle aged, elderly and African Americans of all ages consume an amount closer to 1,500 mg.
But average sodium intake in the United States is approximately 4,000 milligrams per day, 77 percent of it coming from processed and restaurant food. Bread and cheese are the two biggest single contributors, supplying 10.7 percent and 5.5 percent of the average person's daily sodium intake, respectively.
Many restaurant dishes and frozen entrees supply more sodium in one serving than a person should consume in full day. CSPI cites the Denny's Lumberjack Slam Breakfast, which contains 4,460 mg, as well as "a typical Reuben sandwich (3,270 mg), or an order of beef and cheese nachos with sour cream and guacamole (2,430 mg)." The Swanson's Hungry Man XXL Roasted Carved Turkey contains 5,410 mg of sodium
- more than twice the recommended daily maximum - while the Marie Callender's Classic One Dish Chicken Teriyaki contains 2,200 mg.
CSPI has also discovered that the sodium content of foods varies widely by brand or country. For example, Contadina tomato paste contains 237 percent more sodium than the same product by Hunt's, even though the former company's tomato sauce contains 33 percent less sodium than the latter's. McDonald's Chicken McNuggets contain more than twice as much salt
in the United States as they do in the United Kingdom.
But not all salt is bad for you. "No one seems to make the distinction between processed white salt and full-spectrum coarse sea salt," said consumer health advocate Mike Adams. "Unprocessed seat salt provides eighty or more trace elements that are vital for human health. The problem is not that people are eating too much salt, it's that they're eating fake salt, devoid of nutrients."