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Health groups call on fast food giants to reduce salt

Health groups call on fast food giants to reduce salt

The Stroke Foundation and the National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI) at the University of Auckland are calling on fast food companies in New Zealand to reduce the salt in their food as part of World Salt Awareness Week which takes place from 10th to 16th March. Recent research has shown that reducing our current salt intake to recommended levels could prevent nearly six percent of strokesNotes to editors

Hendriksen, Hoogenveen, Hoekstra, Geleijnse, Boshuizen, and van Raaij. Potential effect of salt reduction in processed foods on health. American Journal for Clinical Nutrition, 2014; 99 (3).
. This would equate to over one stroke prevented each day or over 500 each year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a maximum of 6 grams of salt per day for good health (around one teaspoon). The average New Zealander currently consumes far more than this at around 9 grams per day University of Otago and Ministry of Health. 2011. A Focus on Nutrition: Key findings of the 2008/09 New Zealand Adult Nutrition Survey. Wellington: Ministry of Health

This month’s Consumer magazine highlights the seriously salty issue Kiwis have with fast food along with tips for choosing lower salt options. Consumer quotes the example of a Carl’s Jr Western Bacon Thickburger which is packed with 6.5 grams of salt, more than an adult’s recommended 6 gram daily limit Carls Jr. Nutritional Information.

Research from NIHI found burgers are the single fast food item with the highest average salt content per serve Waterlander W, Eyles H, Whitworth L. 2014. Contribution of fast food to the New Zealand diet. Auckland: National Institute for Health Innovation, University of Auckland. . Some of the most popular burger combo meals were also found to contribute 80 percent of the recommended daily salt intake.

Dr Helen Eyles, Nutritionist and Research Fellow at NIHI says: “Reducing salt in processed foods has been identified by the WHO as one of the most cost-effective things we can do to reduce the burden of nutrition-related disease. As people become busier fast food is making up a larger proportion of people’s diets. Therefore, reducing salt in fast food is a no-brainer and will make an important contribution to the health of New Zealanders.”

Last month a WHO commissioned study showed New Zealand has had one of the sharpest increases in fast food consumption, coming fourth behind Canada, Australia and Ireland De Vogli R, Kouvonen A, Gimeno D. The influence of market deregulation on fast food consumption and body mass index: a cross-national time series analysis. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 2014; 92:99-107A.

Dietitian and Stroke Foundation National Health Promotion Manager, Julia Rout says: “Around 75 percent of the salt we eat comes hidden in processed food such as fast foods. A diet high in salt increases the risk of high blood pressure, which is a leading cause of stroke. Some fast food companies have already reduced the salt content of their menu items but far more can and needs to be done.”

Dr Wilma Waterlander, Health Scientist and Research Fellow at NIHI adds: “In line with previous research Dunford E, Webster J, Woodward M, Czernichow, Yuan WL, Jenner K, Ni Mhurchu C, Jacobson M, Campbell N, Neal B. The variability of reported salt levels in fast foods across six countries: opportunities for salt reduction. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2012; 184:9.
, we also found in our recent study that the salt content of similar fast food items (such as two types of burgers) varied heavily, showing it is possible to reduce salt.”


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