“In Italy there are no obligations to reduce it”

That salt used in exaggerated quantities is bad, for example by increasing the blood pressure so much so that it can cause cardiovascular diseases, even very serious ones, we have known for some time. But now even the WHO is pointing the finger at excesses in consumption. Implementing policies to reduce salt content in food could save approx 7 million lives, worldwide, by 2030, says a report from the World Health Organization. But only 5% of Member States have mandatory and comprehensive sodium reduction policies, and Italy is not among these.

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Salt, that’s why too much is bad

The first WHO “Global report on sodium intake reduction” warns: “The world is off track to achieve the global goal of reducing sodium intake by 30% by 2025”. The global average salt intake is estimated to be 10.8 grams per day, more than double the WHO recommended intake of less than 5 grams of salt per day (equal to one teaspoon). “Unhealthy diets are a leading cause of death and disease globally, and excessive sodium intake is a major culprit,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general.

The properties of sodium

An essential nutrient, when consumed in excess sodium increases the risk of heart disease, stroke but some studies document an increased risk of gastric cancer, obesity, osteoporosis and kidney disease. Despite this, only 9 countries (Brazil, Chile, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Uruguay) have a comprehensive policy package with mandatory sodium reduction measures. And in Italy, the report notes, there are no provisions and there is no limit on the sodium content in foods. WHO calls on all countries to implement mandatory policy adoption and to promote 4 “best buy” interventions: set targets for the amount of sodium in food and meals; limit salt-rich foods in hospitals, schools, workplaces and nursing homes; label on the front of the package to help consumers select low sodium products, carry out communication campaigns to reduce salt consumption. But also encourage the consumption of salt with a low sodium content (low sodium).


A recent study by Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee (USA), revealed the mechanism by which salt manages to act as a real killer against our body. The findings, published in the journal Circulation Research, could one day make it possible to identify people with hypertension who are more sensitive to salt and therefore more at risk. In the study, researchers found that activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome, a protein complex involved in the inflammatory response, in some immune cells contributes to salt-sensitive hypertension.

About 50 percent of hypertensive people have a large increase in blood pressure after consuming a salty meal, as do 25 percent of people with normal levels. “The increase in blood pressure in response to salt can be significant enough to cause heart attack, stroke and even sudden cardiac death, yet it goes undiagnosed and untreated,” said Annet Kirabo, associate professor of medicine and senior author of the study. It’s a silent threat.”

The study showed that the NLRP3 inflammasome in a specific subtype of immune cells changed dynamically in salt-sensitive people. With data from human volunteers in hand, the researchers turned to mouse models to further study the mechanism. They found that inhibiting or removing the inflammasome eliminated sensitivity to blood pressure salt, and adding it restored sensitivity instead. Understanding this process may make it possible to develop a blood test for salt sensitivity related to blood pressure in the future. “We could consider the inflammasome mechanism as a potential biomarker to discover whether a patient, with or without hypertension, is sensitive to salt or not – concludes Ashley Pitzer, another of the study authors – this could provide clinicians with another tool to reduce the cardiovascular risks of their patients.

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