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Indians continue to eat more salt than what WHO recommends

September 26, 2023

The estimated mean daily salt intake in India stands at 8.0 g (8.9 g/day for men and 7.1 g/day for women) against the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation of up to 5 g daily.

Additionally the salt intake was significantly higher in men, those in rural areas and overweight and obese respondents, according to a recent survey by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) published in the Nature journal. The study is based on a sample survey carried out as part of National NCD Monitoring Survey (NNMS) in India.

It also noted that the perception of the harmful effects of high salt intake and practices to limit intake was low in the study population.

“The mean dietary salt intake is high in the Indian population, which calls for planning and implementing control of dietary salt consumption measures. We need to cut down on eating processed foods and those cooked outside home. 10,659 adults aged 18–69 years participated in the survey [response rate of 96.3%],” said Prashant Mathur, lead author of the study and director of ICMR-National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research.

The study also notes that salt intake was higher in employed people (8.6 gm) and current tobacco users (8.3 gm) and those with high blood pressure (8.5 gm). It specifies that reducing the intake is a beneficial and cost-saving way to reduce elevated blood pressure by 25% and advocates a 30% reduction in mean population salt intake by 2025.

It found that less than half of the participants practised measures to control dietary salt intake and the most commonly adopted step to prevent salt overdose was avoiding meals outside of the home.

Cardiovascular diseases account for an estimated 28.1 % of total deaths in India. In 2016, 1.63 million deaths were attributable to hypertension compared to 0.78 million deaths in 1990, the study said.

The study was conducted in a nationally representative sample wherein dietary sodium intake was estimated from spot urine samples, a validated method used to assess intake. The population mean was calculated using sampling weights; thus, the study findings could be generalised at a population level and used to plan and implement control measures.

“The information on awareness and behaviour of salt intake was self-reported and could be subjected to information bias. The study did not capture data on the actual dietary sources of salt in food items and condiments for any correlation analysis,” it said while declaring the limitation of the study.

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