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An unsavoury tale?

A pinch of salt here and there can bring even the blandest meal to life. But it is a fact that eating too much salt can be bad for you. Our readers do not need to be told about the harmful effects of consuming too much salt. However, the risks do need to be emphasised to the public

By The Journal

A pinch of salt here and there can bring even the blandest meal to life. But it is a fact that eating too much salt can be bad for you. Our readers do not need to be told about the harmful effects of consuming too much salt. However, the risks do need to be emphasised to the public.

Since ancient times people have valued salt. Wars have been fought over it and friendships cemented by it. Roman soldiers were paid in salarium argentum, or salt money, giving us our word “salary”. Salt has influenced our language in other ways: we eat salad and sausages, and we describe those we respect as the “salt of the earth” or “worth their salt”.

Nowadays, some consider salt to be the most dangerous food additive. The quantity of salt in the food we buy can push our daily intake to a level well above our dietary requirements. Indeed, according to Bob Michell, author of this week’s cover story, the majority of people’s salt intake is not from the salt cellar but through the addition of salt by those who process food — so-called “passive consumption”. Food manufacturers have taken steps in recent years to reduce the amount of salt they use. Nevertheless, he points out that the average person’s salt consumption — 8.1g per day — is far above our nutritional need for sodium and must be reduced further to cut the costs to the nation of cardiovascular disease.

How can this be achieved? Increasing public awareness of the hidden salt in food is the aim of the 2013 campaign by Consensus Action on Salt & Health, or CASH. National Salt Awareness Week begins on 11 March 2013 and its theme is “Less salt please”.

Rather than focusing on salt in processed foods, CASH will tell the public how difficult it can be to consume less salt when eating foods prepared in restaurants and take-away outlets. CASH is making available posters, leaflets and fact sheets and is keen for pharmacists to help get its message across to their customers. You can order these resources for display in your pharmacies. But you must do so by 16 February.

This should also serve as a reminder for pharmacists to take into account the sodium content of medicines, such as over-the-counter soluble analgesics and indigestion remedies. They may consider recommending alternatives for patients with hypertension or any condition associated with sodium retention. Antacid preparations with low sodium content are annotated accordingly in the British National Formulary.

 

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2013.11115991

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