More odium heaped on sodium

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A recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal may leave readers with a salty taste in their mouths. According to Elizabeth Dunford, a global database manager for the Australian arm of World Action on Salt and Health, fast food meals in the U.S. pack more salt than their overseas counterparts sometimes up to double the amount.

For the latest research, Dunford and colleagues looked at the salt content of seven categories of fast-food products from six companies (Burger King, Domino s Pizza, KFC, McDonald s, Pizza Hut, and Subway) and compared them across six countries: Canada, Australia, U.S., U.K., France, and New Zealand. The results showed that fast-food products from the U.S. contained the highest salt levels overall.

Certain foods, such as McDonald s Chicken McNuggets, contained more than twice as much salt in the U.S. than in the U.K. And as ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava points out, Obviously, folks who have to watch salt intake will find these data worrisome, but the most important message is that the serving sizes of some products are larger in the U.S. than in other countries. So to deal with excesses of both salt and calories, watch the serving size!

But even if the salt content in U.S. fast-food items is higher, is it really a problem? The majority of people consume only a small fraction of their meals at fast-food restaurants, ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan points out, so the overall contribution to their diet would still be very low.

Moreover, ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross says, there is no solid evidence that adhering to the official recommendation for sodium intake will actually have an overall beneficial effect on public health.

U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that healthy people consume no more than 2,300 mg of salt daily, but since the study found that some fast-food meals can contain up to 10,000 mg of salt (due in part to large serving sizes), they caution that such excessive sodium consumption can increase the risk of hypertension and premature death. But making a leap from a single high-salt fast-food meal to heart disease or death is not grounded in science, counters Dr. Whelan.