media release

Researchers laud shakedown on salt

July 12, 2011

Michel Joffres (in Victoria), 778.782.7191
Azadeh Alimadad,
Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.3210/9017;

Slowing down on salt intake is a key message of the B.C. government’s focus on healthy living - it's also the mantra of Simon Fraser University health scientist Michel Joffres.

Joffres, who has helped crunch some of the government numbers, has been weighing in on the negative impacts of salt on consumers – and the province’s health care system – for several years.

“Decreasing sodium intake could have major long term life-saving impacts, is feasible, relatively easy and can be done quickly, without any negative health consequence,” says Joffres, who has carried out numerous national studies on the effects of high sodium levels. “But it also requires the support of government and the food industry.” New advertising aimed at sodium reduction began this week.

British Columbians on average consume more than twice the recommended daily sodium intake – 3,400 mg instead of the advisable 1,500 mg. Excess salt is linked to high blood pressure, a major cause of cardiovascular disease, and a leading factor for stroke.

Joffres is currently one of three experts the U.S. Centre for Disease Control has asked to model the impact of different scenarios of sodium reduction on cardiovascular disease in the U.S. Based on his model, the research, to be completed this fall, is expected to show a large impact on the number of lives that could be saved.

Meanwhile Joffres’ PhD student Azadeh Alimadad is doing her thesis on estimating the impact of a gradual reduction of sodium intake on cardiovascular disease in Canada, the U.S. and the Latin American countries.

As well, she has compared the content of sodium between similar foods in France and Canada and found that labeling is often inconsistent and can be difficult for consumers, in their bid to reduce levels, to interpret. “By making good choices it is possible for consumers to significantly reduce their sodium consumption, and at no extra cost – actually, less,” she says.

Joffres was also part of a team that earlier looked at the potential impact of a reduction in dietary sodium and decreases in cardiovascular disease in Canada (2008), and benefits in the reduction of dietary sodium on hypertension and its related health care costs (2007).

Joffres says the government’s focus on sodium reduction is important given the federal government’s decreased commitment to the issue and its recent dissolving of the Sodium Working Group.

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