World Salt Awareness Week: Less Salt Please!

wash-poster2013worldsaltweek

The global group World Action On Salt and Health (WASH) kicks off  its 6th World Salt Awareness Week campaign today -Monday March 11th – 17th March 2013. Held annually, the week of awareness serves to highlight the importance of reducing salt intake for better health for populations throughout the world.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and disability in the world with raised blood pressure being the biggest direct causes, accounting for more than 60 per cent (60%) of all strokes and approximately 50 per cent (50%) of all heart disease. The evidence strongly demonstrates that a high salt intake is a major cause of elevated blood pressure and that the benefits of a modest reduction in salt intake are large. For instance, a reduction in salt intake of 6g/day through the fall in blood pressure that would occur would cause an approximate 24 per cent (24%) reduction in stroke and a 18 per cent (18%) reduction in coronary heart disease mortality.

For this year’s World Salt Week, the focus is “Less Salt Please”, with an education campaign helping everybody, including chefs, understand how using use less salt doesn’t mean sacrificing the great flavour of their food. The target audience of the World Salt Week this year is restaurants and the catering industry. According to WASH, while individuals can control salt levels as they prepare food, chefs in restaurants, cafes, canteens, takeout and fast food venues might not understand the importance of salt reduction and the long-term health implications of eating a high salt diet

World Action On Salt and Health (WASH) was established in 2005. With 455 members from 85 countries a majority of WASH members are hypertension experts as they see the implications of high salt intake, however some have other roles as well – but all have an interest in reducing salt intake in their individual countries.

WASHlogoWorld Action on Salt and Health works to influence governments in all countries around the world to make healthy policy changes. The organization also keeps an its web site updated with salt reduction action from around the world.

WASH is supported by health and hypertension expert communities all over the world. One of the most prominent of these is the UK-based CASH – Consensus Action on Salt and Health, a group of health professionals set up in 1996 as a response to the refusal of the UK Chief Medical Officer to endorse the recommendations to reduce salt intake, following the threat of withdrawal of funds by the food industry to the Conservative Party. Currently CASH is successfully working to reach a consensus with the food industry and Government over the harmful effects of a high salt diet, and bring about a reduction in the amount of salt in processed foods as well as salt added to cooking, and the table.

An overview of Canadian salt reduction advocates
In Canada the advocacy for salt reduction is waged mostly by hypertension experts. At least 35 health groups and experts showed for their unanimous support for Bill C-460, Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada Act, the parliamentary debates on which started in February this year. If passed, the bill would require all food companies and key government departments to begin or continue to implement the Sodium Reduction Strategy.

Among the active supporters of the bill is the Heart and Stroke Foundation, one of Canada’s largest and most effective health charities. Over the last 60 years the Foundation invested more than $1.3 billion in heart and stroke research, becoming the largest contributor in Canada after the federal government. In that time, the death rate from heart disease and stroke has declined by more than 75 per cent. The Foundation’s Chair in Hypertension Prevention and Control Initiative is headed by the University of Calgary’s Dr. Norm Campbell, whose research and advocacy work has been largely devoted to reduction of salt intake as a way to prevent hypertension.

Another major player and a supporter of the bill is Hypertension Canada ,a newly integrated volunteer-based, not-for-profit organization representing over 50 years of expertise in the field of hypertension. The organization joins three organizations (Blood Pressure Canada, Canadian Hypertension Society and Canadian Hypertension Education Program) as ONE authoritative voice on hypertension with more synergistic interactions across all pillars of education, scholarship and research. The NGO sees its mission in advancing health by the prevention and control of high blood pressure through research, advocacy, education and knowledge development and translation.

The sodium reduction bill is also supported by NGOs focusing on healthy food and consumption, such as Breakfast for Learning, the leading national non-profit organization solely dedicated to child nutrition programs in Canada, or the Centre for Science in the Public Interest , an organization specialized on nutrition, food safety and health in the USA and Canada.

For more information on wash and to find out what you can do to take action on salt reduction, visit: http://www.worldactiononsalt.com

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