The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is a government organization responsible for protecting the health of the public through regulating human drugs, medical devices, the food supply and cosmetics. With the incidence of hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, on the rise in the U.S. and already affecting 1 in 3 adults according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, the contributing factors including sodium intake remain a topic of interest. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture sets the recommended daily intake of sodium at 2300 mg. The FDA takes an active role in creating food labeling criteria and regulating nutrition information.
Average Sodium Intake
The human body requires sodium, commonly referred to as salt, to balance the fluids in the body and help transmit signals between the nerves, muscles and brain. Consuming too much sodium, however, causes an increase in blood volume and contributes to high blood pressure. The average American consumes 3436 mg of sodium per day, according to the American Heart Association, which is well above the daily recommended intake.
Intake to Reduce Hypertension
If you suffer from high blood pressure, defined as consistent systolic blood pressure readings of 140 mmHg or higher or diastolic readings of 90 mmHg or higher, the American Heart Association recommends reducing your sodium intake to 1500 mg per day or less. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute created a diet known as the Dietary Approaches to Reduce Hypertension, or DASH, that emphasizes reduced sodium intake by eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.
Sodium Content of Food
Some foods naturally contain sodium, but that accounts for only 10 percent of the total salt intake, according to the FDA. Another 5 to 10 percent of the sodium in your diet comes from the salt you add at the table or while cooking. That leaves approximately 75 percent, which comes from processed foods and foods prepared by restaurants. The high sodium content of processed foods makes it difficult for the average person to reduce their sodium intake to the recommended levels.
Regulating Sodium Content
The Institute of Medicine released a report on April 20, 2010 that recommended strategies to reduce sodium intake to the recommended levels. That report suggests that in order for Americans to reduce their sodium intake, government agencies including the FDA need to create new restrictions on the acceptable amounts of sodium in food products.
To date, the FDA has not exercised its regulatory authority to restrict the amount of sodium added to processed foods. In order for Americans to reduce their sodium intake to the recommended levels and decrease the incidence of high blood pressure and heart disease, the FDA along with health professions, food manufacturers and individual citizens will need to cooperate. To help us reach our goals, the FDA continues to set the criteria for nutrition claims such as ‘low sodium’ and ‘reduced sodium’.