Salt calculator created to help Canadians limit consumption

Canadians consume too much salt and that can have dangerous health consequences. Researchers have created an on-line tool to help people figure out exactly how much salt they eat daily. The goal is make them understand their intake and to get them to decrease it.

The average Canadian consumes 3,400 mg. of salt. That’s more than twice the recommended amount. High sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure which in turn, is a risk for stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. It is also linked with an increased risk of osteoporosis, stomach cancer and severity of asthma.
Many people may not realize how much salt they eat or where it’s coming from, say researchers from the University of Toronto, the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. The tend to think about what they use from a salt shaker. But researchers say a much greater problem comes from what Canadians consume in packaged and processed foods as well as restaurant meals.

Sandwiches, wraps, stir fry entrees and ribs topped the sodium levels at sit-down restaurants.
(Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

The calculator asks 23 questions including:

• How often do you eat out?
• Where do you eat out (fast food, table service or find dining establishments)?
• What types of food do you eat (breads, prepackaged food, cheese, etc.)?

After you answer the questions it calculates your sodium intake and breaks down where most of it is coming from. The calculator was created using information about food consumption in Canada taking into account the habits of different age groups.

Many unaware of their salt intake, says researcher

“What we really hope to achieve is that people will become more aware of their sodium intake, how much they consume and where they consume it from,” said JoAnne Arcand, a post-doctoral fellow in the nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto. “The point is really to make high sodium intake personal. Many Canadians think that they are doing better than the average person. But what I think the calculator will show them is that high sodium intake is a problem amongst many people in a population including themselves.”

The Canadian government set up a task force to look at how to reduce Canadians’ salt intake but later dismantled it. It handed over the job to a group seen to be too close to the food industry. Many medical and consumer groups criticized the move.

The government then proposed new sodium reduction targets for manufacturers that were seen as too lax and unenforceable.



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