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Nutrition: Salt

Volume 476: debated on Monday 2 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidance the Food Standards Agency provides to subgroups of the population including (a) pregnant women, (b) the elderly and (c) those who are exposed to conditions that cause extreme sweating on dietary salt intake. (207285)

In 2003, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) published its report “Salt and Health” and recommended that the average daily intake of salt by all adults should be reduced to six grams per day. SACN found no evidence to suggest that such a reduction in salt intake would have adverse effects on any particular group in the population including pregnant women, the elderly and those who are exposed to conditions that cause extreme sweating. SACN has not published any further advice on salt intake for these sub-groups.

No specific advice has been issued by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to pregnant women, whose blood pressure is routinely monitored throughout pregnancy and will be advised by their doctor on appropriate treatment, or to those who are exposed to conditions that cause extreme sweating.

The guidance on salt intakes that the FSA issues to older people highlights that on average intakes should be less than six grams per day, that it is important to be aware of the salt content of ready-prepared foods, and to avoid adding salt when cooking and at the table. This is the same advice that is issued to the general adult population.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health on what key pieces of evidence the nutritional advice relating to salt intake is based; and what opposing evidence was considered in formulation of the advice. (207286)

The Food Standards Agency’s advice to reduce salt intake is based on the report, “Salt and Health” (2003), by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN). SACN considered a wide range of published scientific evidence that was both supportive and non-supportive of an association between salt intake and hypertension.

SACN concluded that a reduction in the average population salt intake would proportionally lower population average blood pressure levels and confer significant public health benefits by contributing to a decrease in the burden of cardiovascular disease.