Indians are consuming more than double the recommended amount of salt by WHO in their diets, thus putting themselves at increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and early deaths, a study claimed today.
The study conducted by George Institute for Global Health said the average daily salt intake of Indians above 19 years, was found to be 10.98 grams against the WHO recommendation of 5 grams per day.
It said the salt consumption was higher in southern and eastern states of India.
Tripura topped the list with an average daily salt intake of around 14 grams, almost three times the recommendation by World Health Organisation (WHO).
“Over the past 30 years, the average Indian diet has been transformed. The Indians are eating less pulses, fruits and vegetables and more processed and fast food.
“As a result, their diets are now full of salt, sugar and harmful fats which are driving up rates of high blood pressure, obesity and cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes,” Claire Johnson, lead author of the study said.
With salt being a major contributing factor to high blood pressure, a leading cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD), the study highlights the need for urgent action to reduce salt consumption in the country.
The study found that there was no difference in salt consumption between urban and rural areas, while it emphasised that urban population eat less processed foods, but they consume more salted pickled products.
CVD is the leading cause of mortality in India leading to some 2.3 million deaths each year, a quarter of which are attributed to high blood pressure, the WHO said.
By 2030, the number of people suffering from high blood pressure in India is set to nearly double to 213 million.
“The scale of the crisis facing India is hard to contemplate. We are talking about millions of people dying each year due to unhealthy diets and lifestyles,” said Johnson.
The George Institute for Global Health is at present working with the Centre for Chronic Disease Control (CCDC) and develop the evidence for a national salt reduction program.
Vivek Jha, Executive Director of the institute, said India has to ramp up its efforts to meet the WHO target of a 30 per cent reduction in salt consumption by 2025.
“We need a country wide educational program teaching people what to eat and how to reduce salt in their diets. It can be done but it needs investment. It needs to be made a priority given the rising levels of CVD and high blood pressure cases in India.
“We also need to work with the food industry and encourage them to reduce salt levels in processed foods,” he said.