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A systematic review of the sources of dietary salt around the world

Bhat S, Marklund M, Henry ME, Appel L, Croft K, Neal B, Wu J
Advances in Nutrition

Excess salt intake contributes to hypertension and increased cardiovascular disease risk. Efforts to implement effective salt-reduction strategies require accurate data on the sources of salt consumption. We therefore performed a systematic review to identify the sources of dietary salt around the world. We systematically searched peer-reviewed and gray literature databases for studies that quantified discretionary (salt added during cooking or at the table) and nondiscretionary sources of salt and those that provided information about the food groups contributing to dietary salt intake. Exploratory linear regression analysis was also conducted to assess whether the proportion of discretionary salt intake is related to the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of a country. We identified 80 studies conducted in 34 countries between 1975 and 2018. The majority (n = 44, 55%) collected data on dietary salt sources within the past 10 y and were deemed to have a low or moderate risk of bias (= 75, 94%). Thirty-two (40%) studies were judged to be nationally representative. Populations in Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Guatemala, India, Japan, Mozambique, and Romania received more than half of their daily salt intake from discretionary sources. A significant inverse correlation between discretionary salt intake and a country's per capita GDP was observed (P < 0.0001), such that for every $10,000 increase in per capita GDP, the amount of salt obtained from discretionary sources was lower by 8.7% (95% CI: 5.1%, 12%). Bread products, cereal and grains, meat products, and dairy products were the major contributors to dietary salt intake in most populations. There is marked variation in discretionary salt use around the world that is highly correlated with the level of economic development. Our findings have important implications for the type of salt-reduction strategy likely to be effective in a country.