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01 February 2013

WHO issues new guidelines for salt, potassium in diet

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued new guidelines recommending that adults consume less salt and include a minimum amount of potassium in their daily diets.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) issued new guidelines recommending that adults consume less salt and include a minimum amount of potassium in their daily diets so as to reduce risk of heart disease and stroke.

"Adults should consume less than 2 000 mg (2 grams) of sodium, or (less than) 5 grams of salt, and at least 3 510 mg (3.51 grams) of potassium per day," the UN agency said. Previously the WHO had recommended 2 grams of sodium but the new guidelines added the words "less than," WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said.

The WHO also issued its first recommendations for children's intake of sodium and salt, depending on their size, age and energy needs, he said. They apply to children over the age of two.

Sodium, found naturally in foods such as milk products and eggs, is present "in much higher amounts in processed foods" such as bread, processed meats such as bacon, snack foods, bouillon or stock cubes and condiments such as soy sauce, the WHO said.

Too much sodium, salt consumed

Currently, most people consume too much sodium and not enough potassium, the statement said.

A person with either elevated sodium levels or low potassium could be at risk of raised blood pressure, a factor that increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to the agency.

"Elevated blood pressure is a major risk for heart disease and stroke - the number one cause of death and disability globally," said Dr Francesco Branca, director of WHO's department of nutrition for health and development.

(Reuters Health, February 2013)

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