Government action on salt intake needed: expert
GOVERNMENT action is needed to reduce Australia’s salt intake, an expert says.Professor Garry Jennings, director of Melbourne’s Baker Heart Research Institute, said Australia had neglected the importance of salt reduction as a lifestyle modification, and government regulation was required to reduce the level of salt in processed foods.
His comments were supported by a proposal by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) suggesting mandatory replacement of regular salt with iodised salt in breakfast cereals, breads and biscuits.
The application is in its final assessment stage and will be presented to the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council early next year.
Professor Jennings was commenting on a US study that examined the prevalence of lifestyle modification advice in treatment of hypertension and blood pressure. The US study found that 69% of at-risk patients did receive advice on reducing salt intake.
He believed that Australia didn’t have the same emphasis on salt reduction.
“I think we’ve kind of forgotten about it a bit,” he said.
“The best way to address it is through government regulation... because it’s mostly in commercial foods.”
He said white breads were the most prominent source of salt in our diet, which might surprise many people.
“In the UK and the US, for example, there are quite extensive public campaigns about this.”
The US study also found some groups – in particular older people and those who had higher blood pressure but were not overweight or obese – did not receive advice on lifestyle modification as much as others (J Clin Hypertens 2007;9:850-58).
Professor Jennings said GPs might often overlook elderly people when recommending lifestyle changes, possibly because they believed their life habits were ingrained.
“Elderly hypertensives are particularly responsive... and actually do really well at reducing salt.”
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