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World Salt Awareness Week 2018

Publishing Date: 3/15/2018 9:20 AM

The GOOD of Salt

Salt is an essential mineral in the body; the sodium part of salt enable the cells of the body to feed on nutritional mineral elements and also dissolves, sanitizes and cleanses toxic wastes from the body. A typical example is the excretion of urine, from the kidneys and that of sweating from the skin including tearing from the eyes, which all have a salty taste; thus some biological textbooks refer to salt as the 'cleanser of bodily fluids'

Salt is particularly important for athletes to replace electrolytes lost during sweating when playing sport and/or running. For the general non-active people, salt helps in regulating blood sugar levels in the body and also helps in food digestion. (done in own words), people with low blood pressure (BP) are advised to eat salty food. This implies that salt has a positive significant role in the body as explained above.

The BAD of Salt

For people with hypertension, excess amount of salt intake per/day can be harmful, resulting to Cardiovascular complications like heart failure, stroke and renal problems. There is scientific proof that restriction of daily salt intake can significantly reduce blood pressure (BP) in patients with hypertension, resulting in reduction in complications of Cardio Vascular Diseases. 

Misinformation by health workers to patients with hypertension

A scientific study found that some health workers continue to educate and advice patients with hypertension to stop the use of salt altogether in their food. However, the correct information is to restrict the use of salt in food preparation and consumption to a total amount of one teaspoon of salt per day, being the equivalent of 5-6 grams per day as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The South African Primary Health Care Standard Treatment Guideline by the National Department of Health (NDoH) requires restriction of salt intake to at least one teaspoon (6 grams) per day, for effective blood pressure control in patients with hypertension, and not stopping intake of salt altogether. Other Cardio Vascular specialists recommend a further reduction to 5g/day of salt intake for people who already have cardio vascular complications.

Excess salt derived from 'Junk food"

In South Africa (SA), most of excess salt intake is derived from pre-prepared food, commonly known as 'Fast food' or 'Junk food', far exceeding the recommended intake of 1 teaspoon per/day. Figure 1 below illustrates a typical meal for the day in an urban area in SA.

FIGURE 1 (thanks to health24)

The increasing consumption of salt in 'fast food' (junk food) and in some essential food like bread, has led to the introduction of salt reduction legislation by the SA DoH. As of 30th June 2016, salt content has been reduced in commonly consumed foods such as: bread, breakfast cereal, margarines and butter, savoury snacks, potato crisps, processed meats, sausages, soup and gravy powders, instant noodles and stocks. Another stricter salt reduction legislation will be instituted by 2019 is planned.

Compiled by Dr Nomasonto Magobe – UJ: Faculty of Health Sciences, Department of Nursing