Updated 27 August 2014

South Africans consume too much salt

A recent study has revealed that South Africans could be facing serious health risks as their sodium intake is too high.

A study found South Africans to be at risk for heart disease and other serious illnesses as their daily sodium intake is higher than the recommended amount.

One of main causes for our high salt intake, found by Professor Thandi Puoane from the University of the Western Cape, is when poor people have little else to eat other than pap, which they flavour with salt. 

Read: Too much salt can damage your health

Salt contains sodium and the current sodium intake by South Africans was seven grams per day, while the World Health Organisation guidelines recommended an intake of four to six grams per day, according to the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (Pure) study.

Read: How much sodium is too much?

The SA Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases recommended that the entire population lower its sodium intake to below five grams per day by 2020.

South Africans and salt study

The Pure study, which was led by investigators from the Population Health Research Institute, McMaster University, and Hamilton Health Sciences in Canada, followed more than 100 000 people for almost four years.

The study assessed sodium and potassium intake and related them to blood pressure, deaths, heart disease, and strokes.

The results of the study were put together by hundreds of investigators from 18 countries.

Professor Thandi Puoane, from the University of the Western Cape, was one of two South African researchers involved. The researchers were responsible for the urban site in Langa, Cape Town, and the rural site in Mount Frere, Eastern Cape.

"My research has shown that poor people often say 'we eat porridge and salt because we have nothing else to eat'," she said in a statement.

Read: 10 salty food culprits

"The basic fact is that these people may consume too much salt, which is dangerous as they do not eat enough fruit and vegetables which are high in potassium to balance the salt consumed."

Read more:

Black people across the world tend to be salt sensitive, which ups their stroke risk
Are you eating too much salt?
High salt intake leads to early death


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Dr Jacomien de Villiers qualified as a specialist physician at the University of Pretoria in 1995. She worked at various clinics at the Department of Internal Medicine, Steve Biko Hospital, these include General Internal Medicine, Hypertension, Diabetes and Cardiology. She has run a private practice since 2001, as well as a consultant post at the Endocrine Clinic of Steve Biko Hospital.

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