Minister, experts warn against excessive salt consumption - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Minister, experts warn against excessive salt consumption

As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark this year's World Salt Awareness Week, health experts have warned against excessive consumption of salt as they identified salt as one of the leading causes of cardiovascular diseases.

Speaking during a press briefing for the 2024 Salt Awareness Week,hosted by the 
Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Mohammed Ali Pate, the experts reiterated the need for moderate consumption of sail,given the harmful effects it has on human health.

In his remarks at the event with the theme:"It's Time to Shine the Spotlight on Salt", Prof. Pate,who noted that Nigeria  was not immune to the global epidemic of hypertension and heart diseases, cautioned that,"Salt has a far-reaching impact as the high salt intake contributes significantly to elevated blood pressure, a precursor to heart attacks and strokes."

Quoting the World Health Organisation, WHO's in 2019 figure,he said annually, 17.9 million lives are claimed by these cardiovascular events. 

According to the minister,who spoke through his representative and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health,Ms Kachollom Daju, "by reducing salt consumption, we can rewrite the narrative, sparing countless lives from premature loss."

He said:"As we join hands with the global community to embark on a mission to illuminate the path towards healthier living through the reduction of salt consumption, World Salt Awareness Week beckons us to confront a seemingly innocuous yet potent adversary. 

"The theme “"It's Time to Shine the Spotlight on Salt",resonates deeply, as we recognize the need to bring attention to the impact of excessive salt consumption on our wellbeing. It is a hidden adversary in our diets, one that silently contributes to the burden of cardiovascular diseases that afflict many of our loved ones. 

"Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, our beloved country, Nigeria, is not immune to the global epidemic of hypertension and heart diseases. The choices we make at our dining tables, the ingredients we stir into our pots, and the snacks we consume at moments of leisure — all contribute to the silent escalation of health risks associated with high salt intake. 

"Salt has a far-reaching impact as the high salt intake contributes significantly to elevated blood pressure, a precursor to heart attacks and strokes. 

"According to WHO 2019, annually, 17.9 million lives are claimed  by these cardiovascular events. By reducing salt consumption, we can rewrite the narrative, sparing countless lives from premature loss.

 "There are varying estimates of the average daily intake of dietary sodium among Nigerian adults, ranging from 2.3 to 10 grams per day, while the intake of dietary salt ranges from 5.8 to 25 grams per day. This is significantly higher than the World Health Organization's recommended maximum daily intake of 2 grams of sodium and 5 grams of salt. 

"Reducing sodium intake is crucial for controlling blood pressure, which can prevent hypertension and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The burden of excess sodium consumption in Nigeria is significant, with 10% of cardiovascular disease deaths attributed to it. Implementing sodium reduction strategies can lead to significant healthcare savings by preventing costly medical treatments for diseases caused by high sodium intake. Our lifestyle Choices ~ such as the consumption of certain culinary delights often come with a hidden cost. Salt, when overused, exacts its toll. 

"In our quest for a healthier Nigeria, we have embarked on several pivotal initiatives that are worth highlighting today. These efforts are not just plans on paper; they are commitments etched in the very fabric of our national health policy. "

On his part,the the World Health Organisation, WHO's Country Representative and Head of Mission to Nigeria,Dr. Walter Mulombo, explained that,"excessive salt Consumption is linked to non-communicable diseases like high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, gastric cancer and kidney disease."

Mulombo, who was represented by the WHO's National Progressional Officer on Nutrition, Dr Pindar Wakawa, said:" The global average intake Of sodium is more than double the WHO recommendation, highlighting the urgency of this public health message."

"The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends consuming less than 5 grams of salt per day for adults daily from all sources, which is less than a teaspoonful. That excessive consumption of salt/sodium adversely affects blood pressure is irrefutable. World Salt Awareness Week aims to encourage the implementation of evidence-based interventions to reduce salt consumption in the population to protect cardiovascular health and help prevent many other diseases. 

"This year’s theme is “It's time to shine the spotlight on salt," highlighting the issue of the “hidden" salt (sodium) in many processed and ultra-processed products. |n many countries, three-quarters of sodium in the diet comes from ultra-processed and processed foods, such as bread, sauces and dressings, crackers and cookies, ready-to-eat meals, processed meats, and cheeses. 

"During this week, we join other stakeholders in adding our voices in emphasizing the need for evidence-based interventions to reduce salt consumption. 

"The reduction of salsodium consumption is one of the most cost-effective interventions to prevent hypertension and CVDs. The World Health Organization (WHO) is promoting efforts to address social determinants of health across life course by making it a priority in its Global Health Agenda,"he said.

He recalled that,"In May 2024 (two weeks ago), the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the second edition of its set sodium benchmarks for packaged foods to guide countries in setting feasible and effective sodium reformulation programs."

"The objective of these benchmarks is to achieve a 30% global reduction in sodium intake. We would like to reiterate our commitment to supporting the country in the development and implementation of priority activities towards sodium reduction. Worthy to mention is the ongoing technical assistance to along with other partners on the government-led effort in the national target setting and sodium benchmarking. This presents an important opportunity to accelerate reformulation action. 

"WHO will also continue to monitor progress in doing so around the world, by not only updating the Sodium Country Score Card and periodically publishing global sodium reduction reports, but also refining the algorithms, assumptions and methods used in these activities as new evidence and guidance become available,"he added.

Also speaking,the Director General of  National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, highhghted the critical importance of reducing salt intake for better health and well-being. 

Adeyeye,who was also represented by the Agency's Deputy Director, Ummul-Khairi Bobboi, explained that salt which primarily composed of sodium chloride, is a critical ingredient in human diets.

"However, excessive intake of sodium is linked to various health problems, particularly hypertension, which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. In Nigeria, hypertension is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality, and high salt consumption is a significant contributing factor. 

"High blood pressure is the main cause of strokes, and a major cause of heart attacks, the two biggest causes of death around the world, responsible for 179 million deaths annually (according to 2019 statistics, WHO). The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends thatadultsconsume less than 2g/day of sodium (equivalent to less than 5 g/day salt, which is just under a teaspoon. For children 21S years, a downward adjustment is also recommended. 

"Regardless of our age or gender, we all stand to benefit from reducing our salt intake. The earlier we adapt to a lower salt diet, the less damage we create for our hearts, but with blood pressure in children rising, it is clear that salt is not just an issue for the older generation,"she said.

She reiterated NAFDAC commitment to "promoting public health through sensitization and advocacy on sodium/salt reduction, as well as stakeholders’ engagements and implementation of mandatory nutrition labelling, introduction of front-of-pack labelling and encouraging tadustry to reformulate food products. "

She urged everyone to take this opportunity to learn more about the impact of salt on our health and to make conscious efforts to reduce salt intake. 

"Simple steps, such as choosing lowsodium product options and reading food labels carefully, can make a substantial difference. This week serves as an important reminder of the small changes we can make in our daily eves to achieve significant health benefits,"she added.

The Network for Health Equity and Development, NHED, on its part, explained that the event focused on the impact of salt in diets, which is often overlooked.

The group which is a Nigerian public health and development non-profit organisation committed to delivering high-impact public health interventions across Africa, speaking through its director,Dr Jerome Mafeni, said the theme of the event "highlights the importance of reducing salt intake through awareness and education to prevent health risks."

He spoke further:" We urge everyone to consider the hidden salt in their food choices and the benefits of moderation.

"We are very honoured to continue to have the opportunity to collaborate with the Ministry of Health on various programmes, particularly this week on salt awareness. 

"Like everybody has said, it is time for us to throw away these shakers from our tables and again to change our taste for salt.

"The taste for salt is an acquired taste, and like all acquired taste, this can be made to change.

"And if we can begin to put in place the systems, policies and interventions that would make our people realise that the which taste they enjoy in their food is what is actually killing them and we can get them to begin to change their taste for salt.

"A lot of money in the Ministry is being made, trying to treat the effect of consuming too much salt, can be well saved be re-directed to improve the lives of our people,"he added.

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