High sodium intake results in elevated blood pressure, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. In China, cardiovascular disease – which includes heart attack and stroke – now accounts for 40% of deaths. An extensive study found that Chinese children aged 3-6 are eating the maximum amount of salt recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for adults -- five grams a day.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, was led by Monique Tan at Queen Mary University, London. The team reviewed data on salt intake in China, involving about 900 children and 26,000 adults across the country.
Tan et al. found that salt intake has been consistently high over the past four decades, with a North-South divide. While salt intake in northern China is among the highest in the world (11.2g a day, measured by 24-hour urinary sodium excretion), it has been declining since the 1980s when it was 12.8g a day. However, in southern China, intake has increased from 8.8g a day in the 1980s to 10.2g a day in the 2010s
All countries for which there is comparable data have consumption levels above the WHO’s recommended daily limit. Montenegro and Portugal also have salt averages more than twice the WHO limit. The United States, India and Australia are not far behind with a mean of nine grams, while New Zealand, Canada and England are also above the eight-gram mark.