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Is Sodium on American Plates and Minds?

An Assessment of Consumer Attitudes and Behavior with Respect to Dietary Sodium

September 27, 2011

Introduction

Dietary sodium has received increasingly intense attention due to its effect on blood pressure and the increasing prevalence of hypertension in the U.S. population. Since 2005, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,  has recommended that healthy Americans without risk of hypertension should consume no more than 2,300 mg sodium per day. Those with or at risk for hypertension are advised to consume no more than 1,500 mg sodium per day. Advising lower sodium intakes as a primary prevention behavior for those at risk effectively lowers the sodium guidance for numerous healthy individuals, most broadly those who are African American of any age, but also all who are 51 years of age or older.

Because current average consumption is over 3,000 mg per day,  efforts across the food industry and public health sectors have focused increasingly on reducing the amount of sodium in the foods Americans eat. The food and restaurant industries embarked on the National Salt Reduction Initiative,  and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) subsequently issued a report which made recommendations for reducing the sodium content of the food supply. 

Amidst the work of numerous groups to lower sodium in foods, decrease sodium intake by individuals, and provide information to the public about the health effects of sodium, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation checked in with consumers to understand perceptions, awareness, and actions related to sodium. The study was conducted first in 2009  and again in 2011, timing which would potentially detect any influence of the release of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in January 2011. It would be important to assess whether awareness, knowledge, or behavior about sodium and health had changed over time among those who are advised to consume less sodium, and whether there are differences between these subgroups and the general population

To achieve this objective, IFIC Foundation commissioned Cogent Research of Cambridge, Massachusetts to measure:

  • Awareness of sodium consumption, food sources, and health effects;
  • Perceptions of low-sodium products and related nutrition labeling;
  • Knowledge of sodium as part of a healthful diet;
  • Consumer behavior regarding sodium consumption; and
  • Preferences regarding sodium communication.

The survey was administered on the internet from April 15 to May 5, 2011 to a nationally representative sample of 1,003 adults (18 years and older) living in the U.S.

Download the 2011 Executive Summary (PDF).

Dowload the full 2011 Research Report (PDF). 

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