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People Use Too Much Salt

In this file photo, salt shakers and other condiments at a restaurant in Alexandria, Va., May 14, 2013.

In this file photo, salt shakers and other condiments at a restaurant in Alexandria, Va., May 14, 2013.

There is good reason for the popularity of salt: It can add to the taste of food. And it protects against loss of needed body fluids during extreme heat.

But a new study finds more than 99 percent of the adult population of the world eats too much salt. The World Health Organization says people in many places use twice as much salt as they need. The World Health Organization warns especially about too much use of soy sauce, spicy meat dishes and processed food. And it says pouring a lot of salt on food over long periods can lead to death.

Researchers from Tufts University in Massachusetts studied people from 181 countries where information was available. They found that they used an average of 3.95 grams of sodium each day in 2010. The WHO suggests that people use no more than two grams of sodium.

An estimated 1.65 million people die every year from overuse of sodium. The study noted that 40 percent of those deaths happen in people younger than age 70. The great majority of early deaths happened among people from non-wealthy countries.

But there is some good news from the study.

People in Kenya, Cameroon and Gabon used the least salt. And Kenya had the lowest death rate from heart disease and stroke.

The country of Georgia reported the highest rate of death from cardiovascular problems. Almost 2,000 of every million of the country’s people died from heart and arterial diseases.

Dr. Dariush Mozzafarian led the Tufts study. He notes the rates of stroke are huge throughout China, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The study of salt usage around the world was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.


Words in the News

processed food - n. food that has gone through a series of changes leading to a desired result, such as better taste or easy to package

sodium - n. a soft silver white element found in salt

cardiovascular - n. medical term: of or relating to the heart and blood vessels

arterial - adj. of or realating to an artery (tube that carry blood from the heart to parts of the body)

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