Australians consume much more salt than they think

Australians are underestimating the amount of salt they eat by at least a third, a new study has revealed.

The diets of more than 400 people were placed under the spotlight by The George Institute for Global Health to mark World Hypertension Day, May 17.

Participants in the town of Lithgow in NSW were asked to recall their food intake over a 24 hour period. They then had urine tested to reveal the true picture of what they had actually been eating. 

Researchers from The George Institute found a huge discrepancy with participants consuming at least 9 grams of salt per day on average, but believing they were eating far less at 6.8 grams.

Co-author Associate Professor Jacqui Webster, of The George Institute for Global Health, said the findings published in Public Health Nutrition today revealed Australians were still largely unaware of the amount of salt in their diets.

“The dangers associated with eating too much salt are widely known, yet we are consuming way too much every single day, more than double what is recommended. 

"Our results suggest people don’t realise just how much salt they are adding to their food either whilst cooking or at the table. Then they are being hit with the hidden salt in some of our most commonly consumed foods - breads, processed meats, soups and sauces and salty snacks.

“We need to stop adding salt unnecessarily onto our foods when preparing meals at home. But more importantly we need more manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt in the foods we consume. We’ve had some progress through government salt reduction targets but efforts need to be increased."

The study found the food categories that contributed the most to salt consumption in Lithgow were bread and cereal products, meat dishes, soups and savoury sauces and condiments.

The research was undertaken to update the average salt intake for Australia produced by the Australian Health Survey (AHS). The AHS uses the dietary recall method and estimates salt intake at just 6.2 grams per day.

Associate Professor Jacqui Webster said: “The Australian Health Survey is incredibly important and helps map out our public health priorities but underestimates salt intake by at least a third.

“Our results show a pressing need for a co-ordinated approach by government, industry and the public to reduce salt consumption. High salt intake is a major factor contributing to cardiovascular disease and we know that even a small reduction can lead to huge national health benefits."

Find out more about our salt reduction project in Lithgow, Australia.