By John Agwunobi, M.D., M.B.A, M.P.H, Chief Health and Nutrition Officer, Herbalife
June 3, 2016
The Obama administration issued significant salt reduction goals this week for foods of all kinds in an effort to get Americans to eat healthier.
The recommendations put the onus on food manufacturers and restaurants to reduce sodium in processed and prepared foods. Herbalife applauds the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to release new guidelines for Voluntary Sodium Reduction Goals in the food supply.
The majority of sodium that Americans consume is from processed and prepared foods. According to Susan Mayne, Ph.D., Director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, “Americans are getting too much sodium in their diets.” How much sodium? “The average intake today is over 3,400 milligrams—significantly more than the 2,300 milligram limit recommended by federal guidelines.”
Sodium is an essential nutrient and a necessary part of a healthy and balanced diet. In healthy individuals, most of sodium comes from salt added during manufacturing and cooking. Research shows that excess sodium consumption could contribute to elevated blood pressure in salt-sensitive individuals, which may increase risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Leading international (World Health Organization) and national health agencies (FDA, Health Canada, UK Food Standards Agency, Hong Kong Center for Food Safety) have published recommendations and voluntary guidance to reduce daily sodium intake. WHO also published a guideline on increasing potassium intake from food to reduce blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and coronary heart disease.
According to a January Centers for Disease Control study, “nearly all Americans – regardless of age, race, gender or whether they have high blood pressure – consume more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet … According to the latest findings, more than 90 percent of children and 89 percent of adults aged 19 and older eat too much sodium.”
Herbalife constantly pays close attention to emerging nutrition science along with recommendations like these from leading international and national health agencies, while complying with regulatory requirements and meeting consumer needs. Our Global Nutrition Philosophy is based on dietary guidance from authoritative health agencies and the most current science. Our products are also formulated to help consumers achieve target nutrient goals, including sodium, with the understanding that needs may vary. For instance, individuals who engage in intense exercise, particularly under conditions of high heat or humidity, may experience sodium losses in sweat along with other electrolytes and therefore have higher needs.
The Importance of Potassium
While reducing excess intake of sodium and assessing an individual’s need for sodium based on intensity of physical activity is important, increasing potassium intake through eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is equally important to control blood pressure.
The Big Picture
It’s also important to remember that a holistic approach, like our Global Nutrition Philosophy, that balances a healthy diet with exercise is ideal. Focusing on sodium or any single nutrient doesn’t account for other potential contributors to high blood pressure, such as overweight and obesity. Herbalife is currently developing recommended meal plans for consumers, which will provide guidance on achieving good nutrition through a healthy eating pattern.
The FDA guidance to reduce excess sodium consumption is smart because it calls for a gradual approach to achieve specific target goals over time that will help consumers adapt their taste buds. And even though the goals are voluntary, they have the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in health care costs over the next decade.