Across populations, the level of blood pressure, the incremental rise in blood pressure with age, and the prevalence of hypertension are directly related to sodium intake. Observational studies and randomized controlled trials document a consistent effect of sodium consumption on blood pressure. The majority of sodium consumption in the United States is derived from amounts added during food processing and preparation. Leading scientific organizations and governmental agencies advise limiting sodium intake to 2400 mg or less daily (approximately 6000 mg of salt). Substantial public health benefits accrue from small reductions in the population blood pressure distribution. A 1.3-g/d lower lifetime sodium intake translates into an approximately 5–mm Hg smaller rise in systolic blood pressure as individuals advance from 25 to 55 years of age, a reduction estimated to save 150 000 lives annually. With an appropriate food industry response, combined with consumer education and knowledgeable use of food labels, the average consumer should be able to choose a lower-sodium diet without inconvenience or loss of food enjoyment. In the continued absence of voluntary measures adopted by the food industry, new regulations will be required to achieve lower sodium concentrations in processed and prepared foods.
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