Vietnam Time

12/27/2017 9:51:07 AM

Vietnamese are eating a lot of salt: Experts

(VNF) - The Vietnamese are eating a lot of salt. However, many people refuse to accept that excess salt in one’s daily diet is not healthy and may cause several non communicable diseases (NCDs) such as high blood pressure or heart diseases, heard at a workshop on Monday.

Elderly people have a meal at a nursing home in Da Nang. (VNA/VNS Photo Anh Tuan)

Speaking at the event, Vice Director of National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) Prof. Truong Tuyet Mai said fatalities caused by NCDs are increasing in Vietnam.

Vietnam reported 520,000 fatalities in 2012, of which nearly 400,000 deaths, equivalent to 73 per cent, were caused by NCDs. In 2017, deaths caused by NCD have reached up to 411,000, making up 76 per cent of total fatalities. Fatalities caused by heart diseases are 33 per cent, followed by cancer at 18 per cent, and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases at seven per cent and diabetes at three per cent.

The situation is caused by many factors, especially the high rate of smoking, being overweight, lack of physical exercise, high blood pressure and eating fewer vegetables.

Le Bach Mai, an NIN nutrition expert, said salt intake of over 5g per day may be harmful for people’s health according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation.

“A bow of pho noodle has 3.4 to 4.6 grams of salt. It means that by eating just breakfast, you have completed the daily salt requirement for one’s body,” Mai said.

She suggested people reduce daily salt intake for NCD prevention by reducing salt in home food, eating fresh food and vegetables and minimising the use of processed and braised food.

Do Thu Hien, a housewife in Hoang Mai District, said her family is used to eating salty food.

Hien said she was aware excess salt intake was not good for people health. However, Hien and her family were having trouble reducing their intake of salty food.

“We usually added more salt to food when we cook at home. We also add fish sauce to food we eat every day,” Hien said.

“A person just needs 1-2g of salt per day. However, a survey in 2015 showed that a Vietnamese person consumed up to 9.4g daily, nearly doubling the recommendation level of WHO,” Lai Duc Truong, an expert from the organisation in Hanoi, said. “Salt intake of the Vietnamese has reached up to nearly 10g per day. This will lead to NCDs related to high blood pressure, stomach cancer, kidney failure and asthma.”

He said 77 per cent of salt intake in developed countries comes from processed and restaurant food, in comparison with 20 per cent in Vietnam.

“Some 70 per cent of salt intake comes from home cooking and 10 per cent is added to food while eating in Vietnam,” Truong noted.

WHO has said reducing salt intake to less than 5g per day will save 2.5 million lives every year, according to Truong.

Moveover, sodium (which represents 40 per cent of the salt molecule) is an essential nutrient, as is chloride that makes up the rest of the salt molecule. But excess sodium is also responsible for most cases of hypertension, and hypertension is a leading risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure.

Kidneys are fine-tuned machines for keeping blood levels of sodium within a physiologically healthy range. When there’s too much sodium, the kidneys dump it into urine for excretion; when more is needed, they reabsorb it from urine and pump it back into the blood.

Unfortunately, faced with a chronic excess of sodium to deal with, the kidneys can get worn out. Sodium levels in the blood then rise along with water needed to dilute it, resulting in increased pressure on blood vessels and excess fluid surrounding body tissues.

Vietnam has set a plan to reduce 30 per cent of salt intake in the daily food ration of Vietnamese people to 6.6 grams per day by 2025 to reduce risks of NCDs such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer. The move is a part of efforts to achieve nine global targets set by WHO to prevent NCDs from now to 2025.

A culinary trick worth trying is to prepare foods without adding salt, then sprinkle some on at serving time. (Photo: Internet)

The key to cutting back on salt generally: Do it a little at a time to give taste buds a chance to adjust.

A culinary trick worth trying is to prepare foods without adding salt, then sprinkle some on at serving time. You’ll get a bigger bang for that salt buck while consuming less sodium.

Likewise, when buying canned or packaged soups, select ones labelled low-sodium and, if desired, add some salt at the table. Better yet, enhance the flavours of low-sodium soups with herbs, peppers, garlic and other salt-free seasonings.

Also helpful, for reasons beyond sodium reduction, is to eat more fruits and fresh vegetables. They are naturally low in sodium and many are high in potassium, which helps to lower blood pressure./.

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