The world’s excessive salt and sodium consumption
Sodium chloride, commonly known as salt is an ionic compound with the chemical formula NaCl. Historically the salt used in food production is 99.9% sodium chloride (NaCl). The remaining trace amount is made up of other additives that are imparted during processing.
As an ingredient in food, salt serves many purposes. Aside from flavour it provides, it also binds, stabilises, and helps with colour and fermentation control. For centuries, salt has been used as a food preservative, and this practice continues today.
The sodium (Na) in salt is an essential nutrient for human health. A small amount of Na – only about 500mg – is required each day to support vital functions like muscle movement, conducting nerve impulses, and maintaining the right balance of water and minerals in our bodies. Although we need sodium, a worldwide problem is that most people consume several times the amount required. They ingest it mostly in the form of added salt in processed and packaged foods.
As a result, public health organisations the world over have set salt and/or sodium targets to increase awareness about too much salt in our diet. And simultaneously Saltwell® has helped many food producers’ lower sodium with a clean label.
Salt and sodium targets around the world
The USDA recommends Americans consume less than 5.75g salt, which equates to 2,300mg sodium per day – however, 90% of Americans have an average daily sodium intake of over 3,400mg.
Guidance from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) states that adults and children aged 11 years and over should have no more than 6g salt, or 2,400mg of sodium, per day. The average daily sodium intake is thought to be 3,240mg.
The WHO/Europe and the European Food Safety Authority recommend a daily sodium allowance of no more than 2,000mg. Recent data reports daily sodium intake across Europe region is between 3,600 and 7,600mg, with European men tending to have higher intakes of salt than women.
Salt intake in parts of Asia is among the highest in the world, with the amount consumed by some averaging over 10g – or 4,000mg of sodium – each day.
It’s easy to see the scope of the salt and sodium consumption issue across the world. But why does it matter, and what is the solution?
Salt and sodium: the silent killers
While there’s increased public awareness that salt and sodium consumption is unhealthy, most don’t realise how serious the issue and risks are. There’s an established link between sodium intake and high blood pressure; consistently high blood pressure (hypertension) increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular diseases.
Although potentially deadly, high blood pressure can often go unnoticed until a health crisis arises. High blood pressure may give little or no warning before a heart attack or stroke – the reason it’s known as “the silent killer.”
Adding to this situation is the fact that many are unaware of the impact of salt and sodium on their health. Most unknowingly consume 9-12g of salt per day – twice the recommended limit – because it’s hidden in their food.
The CDC estimates nearly 500,000 deaths in the US each year are related to high blood pressure. In simple terms, reducing sodium intake can prevent thousands of deaths annually. As cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death globally, maintaining healthy blood pressure is a global health priority.
While the link between heart-health and sodium is well documented, excessive sodium is now recognised as a serious risk factor for other diseases, too. These included chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis, and stomach cancer.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD), just like cardiovascular disease, is caused by high blood pressure. As the kidneys struggle to process excess sodium in the blood, they retain more fluid, putting increased pressure on blood vessels.
Even with normal blood pressure, people can suffer serious affects from high sodium intake. Without increasing blood pressure, sodium can accelerate the bone loss that leads to osteoporosis.
A study from the World Cancer Research Fund names high-salt foods as a cause of stomach cancer, the fifth most common cancer in the world.
It’s clear that reducing salt and sodium intake is an urgent matter for public health. Sodium reduction saves lives.
The challenge for food manufacturers
Given the danger of sodium overconsumption and the fact that more than 80% of our sodium comes from processed foods – there is a clear challenge to the food industry to implement sodium reduction in processed and packaged foods. At the heart of the challenge is balancing sensory and functional requirements of salt against healthier sodium levels.
Research looking at sodium reduction in manufactured food identifies various strategies; “health by stealth” being a conventional one used by many food producers. It involves gradually lowering the dosage of salt by small percentages, often annually, for consumers to not notice. Significant direct dosage reductions are noticed immediately by consumers who react negatively, but lowering the dosage by small amounts over a long period of time goes unnoticed. When using “health by stealth” the sodium reductions are minor and it then takes decades to make any impact on public health.
Instead of sluggish “healthy” stealthily approaches, some food producers seek quicker and more significant sodium reduction results by using Potassium Chloride (E-508) in combination with a standard NaCl salt. Artificially blending a standard NaCL with E-508 Potassium Chloride for usage in food may lower the sodium levels however tends to create problems for manufactures in regards taste, and ingredient labelling, which disqualifies the product from having a Clean Label.
Furthermore, because Potassium Chloride (KCl) causes metallic off-notes and bitterness, the usage of KCl creates sensorial problems for manufacturers to deal with. Often requiring further modifications to the formula and flavour modifiers like umami additives or bitter blockers to be used, also disqualifying the product from being Clean Label.
Another sodium reduction strategy is functional modification. This method replaces sodium in the functional processing of foods. While this can be a useful approach, its application is limited to foods where maintaining taste is not a priority.
The simple way to significantly reduce sodium, with a clean label
The need for action on sodium reduction in processed food is critical, but the options to address it can be functionally, sensorially and commercially challenging.
Saltwell® presents a simple clean label 1:1 salt replacement solution – without typical replacement issues. No complex reformulation is required. Just a simple 1:1 replacement of NaCl with Saltwell®, and the job to reduce sodium is done naturally, without compensation on flavour or function issues. And with the bonus of allowing for a clean label on packaging.
Because it’s a completely natural sea salt, Saltwell has a pleasant authentic salty flavour profile. It’s not a problematic ingredient like potassium chloride or acid salts that cause bitterness and off notes – it’s a clean label and crisply sun-dried sea salt with naturally low sodium levels. Saltwell contains 35% LESS sodium than standard food grade salt.
For brands seeking a simple and natural way to take on the sodium reduction challenge, they can let Saltwell make it easy by helping keep the taste, function, and performance of typical salt but with 35% less sodium.
From snacks and condiments, to baked goods, soups, sauces, dairy, meat, vegan and plant-based meats – there is a range of naturally reduced sodium sea salts for application. All made to BRC and ISO standards, and all 35% less sodium.