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Australian men are still eating almost twice the amount of salt they should every day – and Australian women aren’t too far behind.
A new study suggests health warnings about the link between high-salt diets and cardiovascular disease simply have not worked.
Sydney’s George Institute for Global Health has analysed data from more than 30 salt-intake studies carried out between 1989 and 2015 and involving almost 17,000 people. They found that despite public warnings about the risks of salt-laden diets there was no evidence that intake had dropped.
The analysis indicates Australian men are still consuming 10.1 grams a day – more than double the five grams the World Health Organization recommends. Women aren’t doing much better, at 7.34 grams a day.
Experts urge use of salt alternative in food products
“We couldn’t find any evidence that salt consumption has gone down,” said Prof Bruce Neal, who led the study. “It’s good that it didn’t go up, either, but it’s disappointing that we could not detect a fall.”
Neal said public health messaging about the dangers of salt had been weak to date, and focused on food avoidance and improved cooking methods.
“But we know, in a society like Australia, where most of the food people eat is packaged or bought at a restaurant, the salt is hidden,” he said. “If you ask someone at a restaurant they won’t know, and on packaged foods salt is listed but it’s presented in a way that is incomprehensible to some people.”
He believes meaningful change is far more likely to result from health authorities ramping up engagement with food producers to reduce salt in their products.
“We really do need to change the food supply – along with letting people know what they should be doing – but the challenge is that’s unfashionable because everyone sees that as the nanny state.
“It’s a strange situation where we’re happy to have big business influencing our choices through advertising that’s everywhere but we’re very unhappy with the suggestion that government might step in and do that – hence the current debate about the sugar tax.”
The research has been published in the Medical Journal of Australia