Health assault

Dr. Kenneth George and Rachel Harris at last night’s forum.
Dr. Kenneth George and Rachel Harris at last night’s forum.

Barbadians are still consuming way too much salt — maybe as much as two to three times more than needed.

Senior Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kenneth George, in answering a question about local salt intake and whether it should vary for different classes of workers during a lecture on heart attacks and strokes last night, said that the ministry was still trying to get a baseline on consumption.

“With respect to salt intake, we are first trying to get a baseline as to how much Barbadians are actually consuming and what we are doing at the moment in conjunction with Rachel [Harris, dietician] here is a salt intake study, where we are measuring the amount of salt not only from dietary recall, but actually the measurement of salt in the urine and I think that will give us a good idea as to the baseline of how much salt people are using.

“Armed with that information we know that the average Barbadians is using two to three times more than the required amount of salt. So what we are going to try to put in place are programmes that are not only targeting males, not only targeting females, but the entire population — the young, the middle-aged and the elderly,” said George at the Barbados National Registry lecture titled Who’s Getting Heart Attacks and Strokes In Barbados? Findings from the BNR.

The Ministry of Health officer, responding to a question from Nigel Johnson, said while persons who did construction and other manual jobs might perspire more than others, it was a fact that all Barbadians generally were using too much salt.

He said too that with the ageing population, what they wanted was a healthy life expectancy and hence, healthy ageing process minus non-communicable diseases.

Dietician Harris noted that the recommended intake of salt per day was actually a tea spoon.

“Salt or sodium is under tight control in the body. In other words, if we consume far too much it is passed out in the urine. If our intake is inadequate the kidneys hold on to that sodium. So hopefully within the blood and within the body fluid the sodium level is fairly steady. So the recommended amount is round about a teaspoon per day and to meet your minimum requirement on any given day, round about an eighth of a teaspoon of salt is required,” she said, adding that regardless of the job, most people still used too much salt.

Likewise, Director of the Chronic Disease Research Centre, Professor Anselm Hennis, said most of the salt consumed was in preserved foods, noting that sweets, pastries and bread were often high in salt.

It was a proven fact, he said too, that reduction could save lives.

“We really don’t need to have additional salt in terms of what we eat in the course of our daily activities and I say that to preface my comment that salt reduction saves lives.

“There are studies in populations where the salt intake was lowered, and this is always means working with manufacturers of food products… two to three years later, one can demonstrate through the reduced mortality from strokes, it is simple as that,” he said. (LB)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *