How much salt do we need?

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Salt plays a vital role in your health – but like anything, too much of it has an adverse affect on your cardiovascular life and overall health. So the question is, how much salt does your body need?

The Institute of Medicine recommends an “adequate intake” (AI) 1,500 mg to 2,200 mg of sodium per day for children and adolescents aged 1 to 13, and up to 2,300 mg per day for people aged 14 or older. They say that onsumption exceeding these limits increases the risks of adverse health effects, especially those linked to hypertension.

What happens when there’s too much?

Whenever there is an increase in sodium concentration in the blood, the kidney releases most of it in order that the there will be enough water for use of the body. As the kidneys release salt and water, there is an increase in blood volume. With more blood flowing through the body, pressure increases. Over time, a sustained pressure increase causes the heart to work harder to pump blood and threatens the stability of blood vessels, which raises the risk of heart disease and stroke.

How Much Sodium is Safe?

The Institute of Medicine (IOM)1 recommends the following “adequate intakes,” or AIs, per day. Consumption exceeding these limits increases the risks of adverse health effects, especially those linked to hypertension.

  • 1,000milligrams(mg)for children aged 1 to 3
  • 1,200mgforchildrenaged4to8
  • 1,500 mg for people aged 9 to 50
  • 1,300 mg for adults aged 51 to 70
  •  1,200 mg for seniors over 70 years of age.

Most of the sodium we consume isn’t salt we consciously add to our food with a salt shaker.

Processed foods are the main source, accounting for 77% of average daily sodium intake. Another 12% occurs naturally in foods, and salt added during cooking (6%) or at the table (5%) makes up the remainder.

How much sodium are Canadians consuming?

Too much! In 2004, regardless of their age, Canadians’ average daily intake of sodium was far beyond the recommended amount. Males consumed more sodium than females, with intakes above 4,000 mg/day for those aged 14 to 30. Among people aged 9 to 70, over 85% of males and between 60% to 80% of females had usual sodium intakes that surpassed the recommended amount.

According to the survey, young Canadian children also consume too much salt.  Children aged 1 to 3 averaged close to 2,000 mg a day in 2004. In this age group, 77% of children exceeded the recommended daily amount.

For 4 to 8-year-olds, daily intake averaged 2,700 mg. For most children, adding salt at the table was not contributing to the high sodium intake levels. According to the CCHS, 69% of 1- to 3-year-olds and 52% of 4- to 8-year-olds “never” added salt to their food.

By age 9, children were beginning to adopt the adult habit of adding salt to their food. From this age onwards, the percentage of people saying they “never” salted their food at the table dropped to around 30% (Table 2).

The vast majority (77%) of salt intake came from processed foods.


Read the Sodium Consumption at all ages Statistics Canada 2007 Report, by Didier Garriguet:

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