by Marion Nestle
Apr 14 2010

The big push to reduce salt

The Institute of Medicine’s long awaited study,  Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States, will be released next week at a public briefing in Washington, DC.

According to study director Chris Taylor, the briefing will be held Wednesday, April 21, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the National Press Club, 529 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC.  Those who cannot attend can listed to a live audio Webcast at  Anyone who wants to attend should register at  For information, contact the news office at the National Academies, (202)-334-2138 or

In what can hardly be a coincidence, General Mills has announced that it will be reducing the sodium in several lines of its products by 20% between now and 2015.

The great majority, perhaps 80%, of the salt in U.S. diets comes from processed and pre-prepared foods.  If salt is to be lowered, the processed food and restaurant industries must do it.  Just about everyone agrees that salt reduction has to occur gradually and across the board.  It’s great that General Mills is signing on to this effort.

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  • Heather

    Why gradually? Why not sooner than later and why in small increments rather than a significant reduction?

    It seems like such a minimal effort on their part.

  • Doreen

    I applaud the efforts but wish the salt was being cut by more than 20%. Why not more and why not sooner?

    I also wonder when they will look at the amount of sugar that goes into a product. Dumping empty calories in our foods is not good for Americans. Why do I need 6 teaspoons of sugar in a one cup serving of yogurt?

  • Anthro

    @ Doreen

    Buy plain yogurt–it’s good! Add your own fresh fruit, nuts, or a bit of granola if you like. What makes me wonder is why people buy these products at all? Basic foods are still available, although rapidly disappearing; only consumer demand can reverse this trend.


    As to the rate of salt reduction, I think that if they do it too quickly, they will suffer huge losses as it’s the salt that makes the bland corn and such, that is the base of these “foods”, actually have any flavor at all. They are probably right to do it slowly so that people can adjust. As more companies come on board, perhaps they’ll move a little faster.

  • Salt is a preservative, not just a flavor enhancer. Hence “low-sodium” foods usually contain more sugar, because sugar is also a preservative. (Check out the label of “low-sodium” chicken stock sometime).

    As manufacturers lower salt, they will probably increase sugar in order to achieve the same shelf-life. So we can trade hypertension and congestive heart failure for diabetes and obesity.

    The real way to get Americans to cut back on dietary salt & sugar is to lower the amount of prepared & processed foods in our diet; but what manufacturer is going to sign onto that?

  • I agree with commenter Kaela. For both taste and preservative factors, the manufacturers of processed foods will have to replace the salt with something else. To end the killer, and avoidable, diseases, Americans must learn to eat whole foods again. Cook easy, simple meals from scratch.

    Don’t tell me fresh foods cost too much. Even organic prices are nothing like the $/lb we pay for half empty boxes of processed food filled with 20-30 ingredients we can’t pronounce, can’t spell correctly, and have little clue as to their origin or purpose.

  • As with many other natural components in real food, salt itself is not the problem…just like red meat and saturated fat is not the problem. It’s the source from where it comes from that’s the issue. Red meat and saturated fats are absolutely vital to our health. Traditional people around the world have eaten these foods for thousands of years and thrived.

    Similarly, salt is an absolute necessity. We need real salt in our diets, not the artificial, waste product of the industrial industries. Salt is harming us because we eat far too much of this toxic chemical that doesn’t even come close to resembling real salt replete with trace minerals that most of us are lacking in our diets. So all of this “sodium reduction” nonsense is not going to solve the problem. The problem is people eat processed foods containing refined salt, all of which are completely toxic to consume. We simply need to return to real, traditional foods that are replete with real minerals and nutrients, drink mineral water that is not contaminated with fluoride, bromine, and chlorine, and use real sea salt that contains vital trace minerals. If we do these things, we will see a dramatic change in health, period.

  • I like salt and while I try to manage my intake, it’s a battle. I usually don’ t have any pre-prepared food but it’s not always possible. Most of the current salt substitutes are terrible. Potassium is supposed to be an adequate replacement but I don’t know about the health risks involved in that and it tends to taste more metalic.

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