Improving New York Health: Reducing Sodium in our Diets

saltOne of the biggest impediments to improving New York health is the amount of sodium New Yorkers have in their diet. The problem is not just individuals, but food companies. And there is a lot that the market can do to substantially improve the potential of New Yorkers health by reducing sodium input into their foods.

Reducing sodium has huge health benefits. Knocks down the likelihood of high blood pressure, hypertension, strokes, heart attacks and the like. In addition, in a recent New York Times article, Thomas A. Farley pointed out that in America today, “according to best estimates, excess sodium is killing between 40,000 and 90,000 people and running up to $20 billion in medical costs a year.” So along with the improvement in New York health, reducing sodium would also indirectly result in an enhancement of the city’s finances – and indeed throughout the nation.

It can be done. Apparently sodium levels in fast food can vary a huge amount. For example, one slice of pizza can have anywhere between 370 and 730 milligrams – that’s a wide range. It’s just a case of getting food manufacturers on board. This is the first step. Once there is a reduction in the amount of salt in people’s food, individuals’ desire for the salt also drops.

This is not a new issue for New Yorkers or any Americans. But the question becomes quite political when one asks how much should the state be involved? Do we want a situation in which the Mayor for example, is determining our soda input?

Still, New York City is doing relatively well vis-à-vis the salt reduction campaign. Since 2010, its health department has been working via the National Salt Reduction Initiative (a conglomeration of 90+ health departments and organizations) to try to encourage food companies to cut sodium of their own will, based on what the UK has been doing over the last few years. Today, 21 companies (including Kraft) have joined in, by adding less sodium in basic products such as canned beans. So it’s starting.

If there is a move to seriously reduce sodium in processed foods in America, hopefully this will have a direct impact on enhanced health throughout the nation, bringing long-term benefits to those at greatest risk of hypertension, etc.