An assessed 2.2 million and 7 million cardiovascular disease deaths could be averted by 2025 and 2030 respectively if countries across the globe meet all the targets set by World Health Organization (WHO) in lessening their mean population sodium intake by 30 percent.
Recently a report published by WHO says that as of October 2022, only 55 percent of the total 194 member countries have implemented WHO-guided sodium reduction policies and other means through mandatory and voluntary approaches. Along with many other nations, India is also well behind its goal of cutting down sodium infusion by 30 percent by the year 2025.
Usually, we have sodium in our body through Table Salts, meat, poultry, fish, ready-made and convenience foods, composite dishes, savoury snacks, beverages, pasta, noodles, cheese, dressings, dips, game, processed food, chocolates, biscuits, cakes, butter, sauce, and many more.
In 1807, discovered and isolated for the first time by the British Chemist Sir Humphrey Davy, Sodium(Na) is a soft, silvery-white, highly reactive alkali metal of Group I of the Periodic table. It’s the 6th most plentiful element comprising 2.8 percent of Earth’s crust. Usually, people intake sodium as table salt (Sodium Chloride) or as flavor-enhancer Sodium Glutamate. It helps to carry nutrients through the plasma membranes and to maintain normal cellular homeostasis. It eases the function of nerves and muscles and keeps the balance of fluids and electrolytes. The kidney regulates how much sodium is in the blood as too much sodium builds up in the blood causing Hypertension.
Sodium seems to be a healthy element but there is no exact estimation of how much of it we should consume. Though it is appraised that we can infuse 500 milligrams of sodium for a health benefit. But the global average of sodium input is calculated to be 4310 milligrams per day (nearly 10.8 grams/day salt), which is more than double the WHO suggestion of fewer than 2000 milligrams per day (nearly 5 grams/day salt) for an adult. Children should be adjusted downward based on their energy requirements relative to those adults. Here lies the gravest concern of suffering from the burden of non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, gastric cancer, obesity, Meniere’s disease, and Osteoporosis also. Worldwide there is an assessed 1.89 million deaths per year associated with excessive consumption of sodium.
To mitigate this global problem, in 2013 all the member countries of the WHO adopted the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases 2013-2020 and set a target of a 30 percent relative reduction in mean population sodium intake by 2025 and 25 percent relative decrease in the prevalence of raised hypertension. As sodium reduction seems to be a very cost-effective route to get rid of a load of heart diseases, in 2015 all the member states approved the updated, affordable, feasible, impact-driven “Best Buys” Sodium Reduction Policies of WHO.
The four “Best Buys” interventions are the implementation of a National salt-reduction strategy, Consumer Awareness, Clean Front-of-Pack labeling of salt content on food, and Reformulation of processed foods to contain less salt. To examine the deployment of these policies WHO has introduced the Sodium Country Score ranging from 1 to 4 where 1 implies the lowest and 4 implies the highest implementation level. But the report indicates that there are a few countries that have been able to decrease population sodium consumption. Out of 194 states, only 5 percent have deployed at least two mandatory policies, only 22 percent have implemented at least one mandatory policy and only 33 percent have followed at least one voluntary strategy. Since the progress is slow All the member nations adopted the implementation Roadmap-2023-2030 for achieving the target.
The report indicates that low-income countries have started to run these mandatory policies less frequently. The most applied measure is a voluntary media campaign comprising 49 percent of all the member states. In the southeast Asian region there are 11 States out of them no one achieves the Sodium Country Score 4. India is one of them and has a score of 2 with at least one voluntary policy implemented. Like many other lower-middle-income countries India is also lacking a national framework to fight against this menace, though India has a mandatory declaration of sodium on industry-manufactured (pre-packaged) foods.
As per the report, an Indian consumes 3873 milligrams of sodium (nearly 9.8 grams/day salt) per day on average. This inference is a great danger!
Due to the changes in eating habits of Indian people, they’re eating extra amounts of sodium, sugars, and unhealthy fats, particularly trans-fatty acids, and saturated fatty acids. As a result, people are suffering from unhealthy diet-related ailments. So there is an urgency to formulate WHO’s recommendation on the ground.
To fight back against this cause WHO developed benchmarks for sodium content in 18 food categories and called on food operators to deploy this globally in 2022. WHO also assures to help all the countries to fulfill the target with new and better tools, innovative ideas, advocacy steps, and specialized subsidies. If we reach the extended target, we’ll be able to reduce the rate of casualties due to cardiovascular diseases by 3.1 percent by the end of 2030.