Don't buy packaged food without checking its salt content: Here's why

Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India: A significant proportion of salt consumption, approximately 80%, comes from hidden food sources rather than direct consumption. This high salt intake contributes to a higher prevalence of hypertension. To combat this issue, a recent initiative was launched by the Sapiens Health Foundation, IIT Madras (Department of Medical Sciences and Technology), the Tamil Nadu government’s Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, and a New York-based NGO, Resolve to Save Lives. The program aims to reduce salt consumption by 30%, which could potentially decrease hypertension prevalence by 25%.

According to Dr T S Selva Vinayagam, Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, non-communicable diseases (NCD) account for a significant number of fatalities and to address this issue, it is crucial to address modifiable risk factors like salt, sugar, and related items. Reducing salt intake is among the most cost-effective strategies. Dr Selva Vinayagam stated that about 70-80% of the salt we consume is from hidden sources, often due to increased food delivery and eating out.

The ease of ordering food at home and eating out contributes to higher salt consumption, particularly from hidden sources. It is essential for individuals to be more discerning about their food choices, while governments can take actions at a population or community level. The industry is also targeting children as new customers, which could lead to increased salt consumption and associated health issues.

Experts stress the need to address this problem at various levels, including the availability and accessibility of ultra-high-density food products that can lead to children getting addicted. Proper labelling and statutory guidelines on salt/sodium contents in packaged foods are key areas of focus for all stakeholders involved. By reducing salt intake, we can prevent mortality, complications, and prolong healthy years.

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