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Is our love affair with salt lessening?

August 11, 2009 |  5:30 pm

Salt
Maybe so, according to the market research firm Mintel.

Fully 52% of Americans say they are paying attention to the amount of salt in their diet, the company announced in a statement. It's not clear what that means exactly, but read on for a little more, also from Mintel's statement.

The firm sees four main categories of human behavior regarding sodium chloride:

"22% restrict the amount of salt that they add to food, but don't watch the much greater amount of sodium that is in foods and beverages."

Hmm. Based on sodium levels in restaurant and processed food, that would work well as long as they cooked from scratch and didn't eat out much. According to the report of the advisory committee for the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, "On average, the natural salt content of food accounts for only 10 percent of total intake, while discretionary salt use (i.e., table and cooking salt) provides another 5 to 10 percent of total intake. The remaining 75 percent is derived from salt added by manufacturers."

"18% say that 'food and beverages low in sodium are one of the three most important components of a healthy diet.' "

It's not clear what exactly that means in terms of actual behavior, mind you. (*I* know I should exercise most days of the week, but do I do it?)

"26% read labels for sodium, and may make some decisions based on this info, but they are not following a regimen to control sodium in their diet."

"34% do not pay attention to sodium."

Given those data, it doesn't look as though the public is leaping onto the low-salt bandwagon very much. 

Mintel also said that of those interviewed who were following a sodium-restricted diet, three out of four said they didn't miss the salt all that much. That's in line with what the 2005 dietary guidelines committee also found in its literature review. After a salt-craving spike in the first few weeks of sodium restriction,"subsequently, a shift in preference occurs such that by 8 to 12 weeks individuals prefer less salty foods.... This phenomenon also has been demonstrated in long-term studies lasting one year or more."

For a few tips on how to make low-salt-eating more palatable, read the comments from readers in this earlier post.

As for food companies, from 2005-08, "food product introductions containing a low, no or reduced sodium claim have increased by nearly 115%," Mintel says.

-- Rosie Mestel

Photo credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

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