Harvard Men's Health Watch

Sodium remains high in processed and restaurant foods

The amount of sodium in prepared foods hasn't come down much since 2005 and has actually risen in restaurant meals, according to a report in JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers with the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C., evaluated the sodium in foods served at fast-food and chain restaurants and sold in grocery stores from 2005 to 2011. The average sodium in chain restaurant items increased 2.6%. In grocery foods, it fell an average of 3.5%. The sodium in some products fell as much as 30%, although in a greater number of products, it increased by more than 30%.

Sodium from table salt and other sources contributes to high blood pressure, which causes heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. Current recommendations say most people should limit their sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day, equivalent to about a teaspoon of table salt. Those with cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure should shoot for 1,500 mg or less. The average American takes in about 3,400 mg a day.

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