Estonians still consuming more salt than they imagine

Salt. Health levels of consumption are, according to TAI, one teaspoon (around 6g) per person, per day.
Salt. Health levels of consumption are, according to TAI, one teaspoon (around 6g) per person, per day. Source: mkupiec7 / Pixabay

Estonians consume too much salt, and in particular, more than they think they do, according to a recent study, and should cut down on their intake, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Thursday.

This present-day high sodium chloride consumption likely dates back to childhood memories of grandmothers who salted their own meat and fish dishes, AK reported.

However, the recent study, which was based on the urine samples of more than 600 people, rather than self-reported results, found that consumption was higher than might be though.

Anu Aaspollu, senior researcher at the government-founded Health Development Institute (TAI) said: "According to nutritional recommendations, a person should consume six grams of salt per day - this is slightly more than one teaspoon."

Levels in Estonia were much higher than this level and than the level people thought they were consuming.

"When we compared the results we got based on 24-hour urine samples with the results we obtained via food consumption journaling, the difference was almost four grams," Aaspõllu went on – ie. four grams higher in samples than the self-reported results.

"The record holder of the study consumed 60 grams of salt per day, which is ten spoonfuls," she added.

Virko Tsenvus groceries production manager at supermarket Solaris, told AK that: "Estonians love salt very much. The largest number of complaints we get about our produce is that we make food that is too sweet," adding that pickles and cheese-related dishes are popular.

Salt is used a lot in the food industry because due to its properties as both a preservative and a particularly effective flavor enhancer, he added.

However, four years ago when he started work at Solaris, Tsenkus reviewed existing recipes in respect of their salt and sugar content in particular.

He said: "I try to obtain flavor with as many herbs as possible, all types of oils and vinegars, rather than using ready-mixed flavor mixes, which often have a very high salt and sugar content."

Self-reported salt consumption levels in Estonia reveal moderate intake, with men using slightly more salt than women (12 grams per day compared with 8 grams per day), AK said.

However, Anu Aaspõllu said, even these levels of consumption pose a direct health risk, for instance in contributing to high blood pressure levels – a widespread problem in Estonia.

The experience and practice of other countries demonstrates that nationally set limits on the maximum salt content have helped with limiting salt consumption.

The TAI has examined the salt, sugar and saturated fat content of breakfast cereals, chips, meat and bakery products, soft drinks and plant-based milks.

Sille Pihlak, adviser at the Ministry of Social Affairs department of public health, told AK that plans are in place to establish a food reformulation plan in the new year, in cooperation with the food industry.

Some regional differences are also found in salt consumption, according to the recent study – in Ida-Viru County, for instance, which often underperforms compared with national averages and particularly amongst men, daily salt consumption was slightly lower, at 10 grams per day, than the national average.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte,Merili Nael

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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