All Generations Consume More Sodium than Recommended

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All Generations Consume More Sodium than Recommended


Although the latest dietary guidelines say that daily sodium intake for the average person should be 2,300 milligrams, with 1,500 milligrams a day indicated for those age 50 and over, a recent report from market research company The NPD Group shows that all generations are taking in more than they should.

Seniors -- those born before 1946 -- and older baby boomers, born from 1946 through 1955, are on average consuming 2,912 milligrams and 3,199 milligrams of sodium daily, respectively, according to “Sodium Concerns and Opportunities.” Although these amounts are higher than the guidelines’ recommendations, they’re still the lowest levels seen among the generations. Additionally, seniors and older boomers, both of whom have a higher incidence of high blood pressure and other heart-health-related issues, usually check nutrition labels for sodium levels.

Younger boomers, born from 1956 through 1964, haven’t yet adopted the same behaviors as seniors and older boomers in the same numbers in terms of sodium consumption. On average, this age group consumes 3,280 mg of sodium on a daily basis. Over the next 10 years, however, this group will be over the age of 55 and may then suffer from many of the same health issues the older age groups are dealing with now, and at that time will likely care more about sodium intake.

Millennials, adults mostly in their 20s, consume the more sodium than any other generation, taking in, on average, 3485 milligrams a day. Not surprisingly, this age group also has the fewest health concerns and the most casual attitude toward sodium intake.

“The challenges in getting Americans closer to the guidelines are multifaceted,” noted Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst at Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD and author of the sodium report. “Salt is an important ingredient in making foods taste good. Simply removing sodium from foods and/or beverages will likely be met with consumer resistance. In addition, eating habits are difficult to change. We tend to change our habits when there is a present need, such as a medical condition, as opposed to eating right for the long term. Offering popular foods and beverages with lower sodium, while maintaining their taste profiles, is a good start in shifting current sodium consumption behavior.”

In other sodium news, the newest participant in the National Sodium Reduction Initiative (NSRI) is Ruiz Foods, a Dinuba, Calif.-based manufacturer of frozen Mexican food products. The company’s El Monterey Family Pack Burritos and Chimichangas are already within the initiative’s 2012 guidelines.

“While we have made considerable advances in lowering the sodium content in our products prior to our partnership with the NSRI’s initiatives, we have established a sodium reduction plan for our remaining 200-plus SKUs that aligns with the NSRI goals for 2012,” said company president and CEO Bryce Ruiz, “We … believe that a public, transparent and collaborative initiative together with industry and public health providers will have far greater success in improving the wellness of our country’s food supply.”

Formed with the aim of reducing Americans’ sodium consumption by 20 percent over five years by lowering sodium content in packaged and restaurant foods, NSRI is a public-private partnership of more than 65 state and local health authorities and national health organizations and 20-plus food manufacturers and restaurants from across the United States, among them Kraft Foods, McCain Foods, Mars, Heinz and Goya.