Nine in 10 Americans eat too much sodium

Prevalence of processed and prepared foods contribute to high sodium intake, CDC reports

The average American eats about 3,300 mg of sodium each day, CDC announced in February’s  report. That’s well over the  limit of 2,300 mg/d for most people and more than double the limit of 1,500 mg/d for people in risk groups—including about 60% of adults. In all, about 90% of Americans eat more sodium than they should.

“Too much sodium raises blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke,” said CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, in a news release. “These diseases kill more than 800,000 Americans each year and contribute an estimated $273 billion in health care costs.”

According to a review of data in the 2007–08  published in , 44% of sodium intake comes from 10 food categories: bread and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry, soups, sandwiches, cheese, pasta mixed dishes, meat mixed dishes, and savory snacks. Foods purchased in a supermarket or other store accounted for 65% of sodium intake, while restaurants made up another 25%.

The CDC researchers noted a 25% reduction in the sodium content of those top 10 food categories would reduce total dietary sodium by 11%. This would prevent an estimated 28,000 deaths from any cause and save about $7 billion in annual health care expenditures, the researchers reported.

“We’re encouraged that some food manufacturers are already taking steps to reduce sodium,” Frieden said. The New York City Health Department is coordinating the , a public–private partnership to encourage manufacturers to reduce sodium content voluntarily. Nearly 30 manufacturers have joined so far.

Pharmacists can support the , which includes sodium reduction as one of the steps toward preventing a million heart attacks and strokes in the next 5 years. CDC encouraged all people to limit processed foods high in sodium, eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, use the Nutrition Facts labels to select the lowest sodium options, and request lower sodium options at restaurants and other