Canada is falling short on reducing dietary sodium: this video interview explores the opportunities and challenges in Canada when it comes to sodium reduction, with Canada’s hypertension chair, Dr. Norm Campbell.
Tara Duhaney: Hi Dr. Campbell, world salt week is coming up, and can you tell us a little bit about it?
Dr. Norm Campbell: This is a week that was really developed to increase awareness of the general public about high salt and how to reduce dietary salt. It was created by a group called WASH or World Action on Salt and Health.
TD: Why is salt reduction important to people?
NC: Reducing dietary salt is one of the most important ways to improve health. As dietary salt increases, the blood pressure tends to increase. Increased blood pressure is now determined to be the leading risk for death and disability in the world by the World Health Organization. In addition, the dietary salt is considered as a probable procancerogene for stomach cancer, one of the more common forms of cancer, and it has been associated with kidney stone, asthma and osteoporosis.
TD: What are the opportunities we have here in Canada to improve the situation?
NC: There are several different opportunities. Right now there is a bill before Parliament that would introduce an effective strategy to reduce dietary sodium in Canada. Most of the health and scientific organizations in Canada are strongly committed and have signed off policy statement and written letters of concern to our government, including our Prime Minister, that we need an effective program. The premiers of our provinces and territories and health ministers have written and supported the need for sodium reduction. And when we polled Canadians, Canadians believe this is an important topic and are quite supportive of strong government action, including regulations, such as warning labels on food, to reduce dietary sodium.
TD: What do you see as some of the challenges that we face?
NC: There are still very substantive challenges here, in Canada. Right now we don’t have an effective program, it is based on industry volunteerism, without any monitoring, so we don’t even know if sodium is being effectively reduced in foods. We still have a lot of misleading information coming out of the food sector and salt sector around this, and so there is still lots of work to be done.
TD: Are you optimistic about the prospects of improving people’s help through dietary salt reduction?
NC: Well, I am optimistic because there is an awful lot of momentum behind this. One of the very few recommendations coming out of the United Nations about chronic diseases is to reduce dietary sodium. Reducing dietary sodium is called the best buy by the World Health Organization, recognizing not just that it improves health, but saves government money. We have our health and scientific sector in Canada strongly lined up behind this. We have an awful lot of public support for this. In the end, this is about the benefit to Canadians versus the profits of very few individuals in the food sector and salt sector.
TD: Dr. Campbell, thank you for your time.