Packaged foods sold in grocery stores contain more salt than recommended by federal guidelines, according to a new report. This finding comes from a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention while they were attempting to answer a mystery about a common health problem.
Salt has often been tied to high blood pressure, a condition that is far more common in some areas of the country than in others. Researchers are uncertain how geography plays such a large role in hypertension. Investigators from the CDC wanted to know if salt levels in packaged foods significantly vary by locale. They found no such correlation, but they did record excess levels of the mineral are present in many packaged foods sold in the three regions examined — states of the south Atlantic, Pacific, and east north central regions.
Mixed dishes with pasta and meats were found to be the highest in salt content, with 80 percent of samples tested exceeding dietary guidelines for healthy eating. Around 70 percent of pizzas were found to contain too much salt, while 60 percent of soups and 50 percent to 60 percent of cold cuts failing the test.
Americans consume around 77 percent of their sodium from prepackaged foods and restaurants, according to the CDC. More than 40 percent of salt intake comes from just 10 types of foods, the federal agency states.
"Americans consume an average of 3,500 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day (excluding salt added at the table). But the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day. About six in 10 adults should further limit sodium to 1,500 mg a day," CDC officials state.
Americans take in roughly 3,300 mg (0.12 ounces) of sodium each day, nearly 50 percent higher than federal recommendations for most people. People with high blood pressure, those over the age of 51, and African Americans should be taking in just 1,500 mg (0.05 ounces) each day.
The Food and Drug Administration awards a "healthy" standard to savory snacks, cheeses, breads and cold cuts that contain 480 mg (0.017 ounces) of sodium per serving. Sandwiches, pizza and mixed meat and pasta dishes can earn the recognition with concentrations up to 600 mg (0.02 ounces) of sodium per serving.
Processed foods are often treated with high concentrations of salt to reduce the rate of spoilage and growth of bacteria.
White bread was found to be the greatest contributor to sodium intake by Americans, although just 10 percent of breads, cheeses and savory snacks exceeded guidelines for healthy eating.
"Although most of the regional differences found did not have a clear direction or contributor, some may relate to regional variations in the popularity of specific types of products within a food category," the CDC reports.
Some areas of the country just seem to enjoy salty processed foods, such as American cheese, more than other parts of the country, the study showed.
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