Harvard Heart Letter

Potential salt assault

A weighty proposal calls for the FDA to help Americans shake the salt habit.

Help may be on the way for cutting back on salt in a way your taste buds won't notice but your heart and arteries will appreciate. In a long-awaited study and report commissioned by Congress, the Institute of Medicine has recommended that the FDA decrease the amount of salt in commercially prepared food. The proposal aims to rein in the overabundance of sodium (with chloride, one of two components of table salt) in the American diet. Too much sodium helps usher in high blood pressure and damages arteries. By the Institute of Medicine's reckoning, reducing Americans' salt intake could save at least 100,000 lives a year.

Key points

  • Most Americans consume more salt, and thus sodium, than they need each day. Most of this is "hidden" salt in commercially prepared foods.

  • The Institute of Medicine has recommended that the FDA step in to regulate the amount of salt in prepared foods.

  • Don't wait for the FDA to act — it may or may not. Be a savvy consumer by being aware of the amount of sodium in commercially prepared foods.

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