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Posts tagged ‘Salt’

Friends or foes?

Caffeine … is it your friend?



Australians love their coffee. Yet many people feel guilty when they reach for that second or third cup. We know that too much can affect sleep quality and that pregnant women should have no more than four cups a day as higher amounts have been linked to stillbirth. We also know coffee can cause heart palpitations and even exacerbate anxiety disorders.

But there is increasing evidence that coffee drinking has a good side.

American journalist Jean Carper, author of 100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s, says coffee is emerging as a tonic for the ageing brain. She notes a Finnish study that found men and women who drank three to five cups a day in middle age were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s 20 years later.

The study aimed to analyse links between coffee consumption at midlife and dementia/Alzheimer’s disease risk in late life. After an average follow-up of 21 years, 1409 people aged 65 to 79 were reassessed in 1988.

The study concluded that coffee drinkers at midlife had a lower risk of these diseases later in life compared with those drinking no or only little coffee. The lowest risk (65 per cent decreased risk) was found in people who drank three to five cups a day.

Coffee may also have a role in improving movement impairment caused by Parkinson’s disease. Canadian research published last year in the journal Neurology showed caffeine could help people who already have the disease. For the study, 61 people with Parkinson’s who suffered daytime sleepiness and some motor symptoms were given either a placebo or a pill with 100 milligrams of caffeine twice a day for three weeks, then 200 milligrams twice a day for three weeks – the equivalent of two to four cups of coffee a day.

After six weeks, the half who took the caffeine supplements showed improvement in Parkinson’s severity, speed of movement and stiffness.

Carper notes that coffee is an anti-inflammatory that helps block cholesterol in the brain and lower the risks of stroke, depression and diabetes.

However, a recent study by the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research and the University of Western Australia shows the benefits derived from coffee drinking are dose dependent.

Initially, the researchers set out to prove the cardiovascular benefits of coffee, but instead discovered it can worsen obesity and related diseases.

Researchers focused on a compound found in coffee, known as chlorogenic acid (CGA), and found that in high amounts it can make humans fat in areas particularly detrimental to health.

They found that mice given the equivalent of five regular cups of coffee developed double the amount of the dreaded visceral fat – the dangerous type that gathers around the abdomen.


Scrambled, poached or fried? The health benefits derived from an egg depend on your answer. But if we focus on a plain old boiled egg, the health news is good compared with a decade ago.

People with high cholesterol used to be advised to steer away from eating too many eggs, as it was believed that cholesterol in foods raised blood cholesterol levels. However, research has shown that cholesterol is influenced by the saturated and trans fat we eat rather than the naturally occurring cholesterol in foods.

It is the ”bad” or saturated fat content in foods such as biscuits, chips, butter and processed and takeaway food that causes cholesterol levels to rise.

Australian Dietary Guidelines now recommend we consume more eggs and that up to seven a week is acceptable. Eggs contain important nutrients including folate, omega 3 fatty acids, and arginine (a precursor for nitric oxide, which increases blood flow), which may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

And, they won’t make you fat. One egg contains five grams of fat – most of which is the ”good”, unsaturated fat that you need to be healthy. An egg contains only about 1.5 grams of saturated fat and no trans fat.

Eggs are also a natural source of at least 11 vitamins and minerals and are a high-quality protein.

Senior CSIRO research scientist Professor Manny Noakes says: ”Due to the variety of nutrients found in eggs, they can make a significant contribution to increasing daily nutrient intakes. In fact, research shows egg consumers have higher intakes of vitamins A, E, B12 and folate compared with non-egg consumers.”

A University of Sydney study is also investigating the role of eggs in managing type 2 diabetes. Researchers aim to identify the potential health benefits of a high egg diet in pre-diabetics and those with type 2 diabetes. Participants are following a specific high-egg diet (two or more a day for six days a week) or a low-egg regime (fewer than two a week).

Research leader Nick Fuller says: ”We are addressing the limited amount of precisely conducted research on eggs in a high-risk population such as type 2 diabetics to clear up misconceptions about how many eggs diabetics can actually have.” Researchers aim to complete the study in six months.


We need salt to survive. It helps our body maintain the correct balance of fluids, in order to transmit nerve impulses and maintain proper muscle function. But we don’t need to add salt to our food. We can get enough from what is found naturally in foods by eating a balanced diet. We know that too much salt in some people can cause high blood pressure, putting them at risk of heart disease and stroke.

Salt is made up of two compounds – sodium and chloride. If you choose to add salt, it’s better to use the iodised type because of the body and brain’s need for iodine. The World Health Organisation says pregnant women need about 66 per cent more iodine than non-pregnant women. It recommends pregnant or breastfeeding women consume 250 micrograms a day as a total daily intake, which is almost impossible to achieve through diet alone.

In 2010 the National Health and Medical Research Council advised all Australian women who were pregnant, breastfeeding or considering pregnancy to take a daily supplement of 150 micrograms of iodine. The only exception is women with thyroid issues, who should speak to their doctor before taking a supplement.

Most foods are relatively low in iodine, so to ensure more people have enough, WHO and UNICEF are recommending universal salt iodisation.

In 2009 in Australia, iodised salt replaced the non-iodised variety in all breads sold (except organic).

Dr John Eden, endocrinologist at the University of NSW, says: ”Australian soils are naturally deficient. That’s why we suggest that all women pre-conception and during pregnancy take an iodine supplement … If you are iodine deficient then your baby could lose 10 or 20 IQ points or be born with hearing difficulties.”

Salt does not have naturally occurring iodine in it. Eden says: ”People should choose the iodine-infused salt; not just women, men too. Men can get goitre if they are lacking in iodine, which is when the thyroid enlarges and can protrude from the neck. You can overdo it, though: if you consume too much you can cause the thyroid to shut down. It’s about balance.”


Not so long ago it was thought that all oil was bad for us. The well-documented benefits of the Mediterranean diet, with its healthy amounts of olive oil, have taught us that good oils have a place in a healthy diet, and have been linked to reduced levels of obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

Associate Professor Tim Crowe from the school of exercise and nutrition sciences at Melbourne’s Deakin University says: ”There was a period in the past few decades when a low-fat diet was very much recommended and this involved some restriction of all fats, including oils.”

Restriction of fats was related to reducing cholesterol levels and kilojoules.

Further research showed that very-low-fat diets are not always advantageous for weight control and that reducing unsaturated oils is counterproductive to heart health.

Oils are a complex mixture of different fatty acids, including the polyunsaturated omega-3s and omega-6s, monounsaturated, and saturated types.

The fats that we ingest from oil have important structural roles in maintaining nerve impulse transmission, memory storage, and tissue structure.

Fats are the major component of cell membranes and help in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Crowe says: ”Long-chain omega 3 fats found in oil are important in maintaining heart rhythm and have been shown to prevent sudden death from heart attack in high-risk individuals.”

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via Friends or foes?.

Malaysians take too much salt


UNHEALTHY: Their regular average intake is 7.8g per day, above WHO’s recommendation of 5g

PUTRAJAYA: MALAYSIANS consume almost twice the maximum amount of salt recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), a recent study has found.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the pilot study, conducted by the ministry between December 2011 and February last year, showed the regular Malaysian’s average salt intake was 7.8g per day.

The number was 1.7-folds higher than the organisation’s recommendation of 5g per day.

The study also found that men consume more salt than women.

He said data from the National Health and Morbidity Survey in 2011 showed that about 32.7 per cent of Malaysians, aged 18 years and above had high blood pressure, indicating that there were about 5.8 million people at risk of adult cardiovascular disease.

“The most cost-effective measure to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCD) is through promotion and prevention,” he said after officiating the “Less salt, please” seminar in conjunction with the World Salt Awareness Campaign 2013 here yesterday.

Noor Hisham said soya sauce, as well as oyster sauce, chilli and tomato sauces, had been identified as condiments with very high sodium content that was popular among Malaysians.

He said dishes with excessive amounts of salt include fried rice, nasi lemak, fried noodles, noodle soup and roti canai.

The study also found that fish and prawn crackers, fried fish with soya sauce, fried chicken, dried anchovy, sweet sour, sambal and curry fish, beef and lamb curries and fish or shrimp balls, had high sodium content.

Among other food items containing high amounts of salt include bean paste, chicken stock cubes, vegetables, mayonnaise, canned and preserved foods such as salted eggs, salted fish, preserved fruit and shrimp paste.

Dr Noor Hisham said excessive salt intake could cause hypertension (high blood pressure). This can worsen if an individual was prone to excessive alcohol consumption; led a sedentary lifestyle; was obese and had a habit of not eating vegetables.

He said the ministry was also working with the food industry to reduce salt content in food products such as biscuits, noodles, snacks and frozen meat.

“It can be done by educating the public, community and food producers to minimise the use of salt in either food or manufactured products.”

Dr Noor Hisham said so far, only six food manufacturers, registered with the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM), had agreed to reduce salt in their products by two to 40 per cent.

He said the ministry would continue to engage those in the food industry such as caterers, food entrepreneurs, restaurant and cafeteria operators, franchises, chefs and cooks.

“We will show them how to control the use of salt in food preparations by replacing salt with other natural flavours that are still as tasty and reduce the usage of salt during cooking and at the dinner table.”

Read more: Malaysians take too much salt – General – New Straits Times


Salt linked to immune rebellion in study

Salt on bread

Salt is in many foods, such as bread.


The amount of salt in our diet could be involved in driving our own immune systems to rebel against us, leading to diseases such as multiple sclerosis, early laboratory findings suggest.

Several teams of scientists have simultaneously published data in the journal Nature suggesting a link.

Salt may activate a part of the immune system that can target the body.

Experts said the findings were very interesting and plausible, but were not a cure for people with MS.

The body’s defence against infection can go horrible awry, turning on the body and leading to autoimmune diseases including Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

Genetics is thought to increase the risk of such diseases, but the world around us also has a major impact. One of the leading theories behind multiple sclerosis is a viral infection, but smoking and a lack of vitamin D may make the condition more likely.

Now researchers believe they have the first evidence that the amount of salt in our diet may also be contributing.

Gene link

Teams of researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard were investigating a part of the immune system that has been implicated in autoimmune diseases.

We were all really quite surprised to see how changes in dietary salt could have such a profound effect”

Prof David HaflerYale University

They wanted to know how T-helper 17 cells were produced.

A sophisticated analysis of the complicated chemistry needed to form a T-helper 17 cell – which involved carefully monitoring cells and reverse engineering the changes – identified a critical gene. But the gene had been seen before.

“Its day job is to increase salt uptake in the gut,” said Dr Vijay Kuchroo from Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “When we put extra salt in the culture dish it was one of those ‘Aha’ moments, the cells were becoming T-helper 17 cells.”

Mice fed a high-salt diet were more likely to develop a disease similar to MS in experiments.

Meanwhile, researchers at Yale University were also investigating saltand looking at human cells.

David Hafler, professor of immunobiology at Yale, told BBC news online: “In mouse models of MS, those fed high-salt diets had significantly worse disease.

“We were all really quite surprised to see how changes in dietary salt could have such a profound effect.”


There is caution about over-interpreting what is very early research. Studies are now taking place in people with high blood pressure, also caused by high salt intake, to see if there is a link between salt and autoimmune diseases in people.

There is no prospect of a low salt diet curing MS. If you already have the disease and go on a low salt diet the horse has already bolted”

Prof Alastair CompstonUniversity of Cambridge

Dr Aviv Regev, from the Broad Institute, said: “All we can do is bring the current state of knowledge to the public, we have absolutely no recommendations, there’s always a gap between scientific discovery and translation to the clinic.”

Prof Hafler added that a low salt-diet was, however, unlikely to cause harm.

Commenting on the findings, Prof Alastair Compston, from the University of Cambridge, told the BBC the findings were plausible, unexpected and very interesting.

“Like all good science it is introducing a brand new idea that nobody had thought of.”

He said that salt may have a similar effect to other factors such as smoking and sunlight, which alter the odds of getting the disease.

However he cautioned: “There is no prospect of a low salt diet curing MS. If you already have the disease and go on a low salt diet the horse has already bolted.”

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, head of biomedical research at the MS Society, said: “This is a really interesting study and it’s positive to see new avenues of MS research being explored in this way.

“It’s still too early, however, to draw firm conclusions on what these findings mean for people with MS, but we look forward to seeing the results of further research.

“In the meantime, we recommend that people follow government advice on maintaining a healthy, balanced diet, which includes guidelines on salt intake.”


Salt-loving kids drink more sugary drinks: study

One way to reduce childhood obesity could be as simple as trimming back on salt, researchers of a new Australian study suggest.

Research published in the journal Pediatrics Monday shows that the more salt children consumed, the more they drank sugar-sweetened drinks.

Those children who drank more than a serving a day of sugary drinks were 26 percent more likely to be overweight or obese — which suggests that salt may play a crucial role in tipping the scales for kids.

Researchers from Deakin University looked at more than 4,200 Australian children ages two to 16. On average, the boys in the study aged 12 to 19 drank nearly two cans of sugary soda a day, or 650 mL. Girls the same age drank a little less, about 414 mL.

On average, children who slurped up sugar-sweetened beverages — sodas, fruit drinks, and sports and energy drinks — consumed 6.5 grams of salt per day, compared to 5.8 grams of salt per day for the children who did not drink them.

For parents hoping to monitor salt intake in their child’s diet, here are the daily recommended maximum amounts of salt as per the UK’s National Health Service. Salt can also be called sodium chloride on nutritional labels. The simple way to determine salt levels from sodium is: salt = sodium x 2.5.

1 to 3 years: 2g salt a day (0.8g sodium)
4 to 6 years: 3g salt a day (1.2g sodium)
7 to 10 years: 5g salt a day (2g sodium)
11 years and over: 6g salt a day (2.4g sodium)

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‘Unnecessary’ high salt levels in cheese, health group warns


Roquefort was found to be the saltiest cheese
By Anna-Marie Lever Health reporter, BBC News

Large amounts of unnecessary salt are being added to cheese, the health pressure group Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash), has warned.

The group analysed 722 cheese portions of 30g each and found many contained more salt than a bag of crisps.

The saltiest type was roquefort at 1.06g per 30g. But within varieties salt content varied – suggesting it is possible to reduce levels.

The Dairy Council said cheese provided a wide range of nutrients.

Too much salt is known to raise blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

The survey looked at over 30 different cheese varieties from seven supermarkets over four months up to November 2012, assessing salt content in a standard 30g portion size.

The saltiest cheese varieties were the blue cheese Roquefort, with 1.06g of salt in a 30g portion, feta and halloumi.

The cheese varieties with the lowest salt levels were mozzarella, emmental and wensleydale.

Within cheese varieties there was also a large variation in salt content between products.

How salty?

  • Recommended daily maximum: 6g
  • Roquefort, 30g portion: 1.06g salt
  • Bacon rasher: 0.9g
  • Halloumi, 30g: 0.81g
  • Seawater, 30g: 0.75g
  • Cheddar, 30g: 0.52g
  • Packet of crisps: 0.5g
  • Mozzarella, 30g: 0.30g

The survey found that for gorgonzola, one cheese product was nearly six times saltier than the least salty, and large differences were also seen in wensleydale and cheddar.

Cash said salt intake should be less than 6g a day – about a teaspoon – and urged consumers to choose either a lower salt version or eat less cheese.

Cash chairman Prof Graham MacGregor said: “Even small reductions will have large health benefits. For every one gram reduction in population salt intake we can prevent 12,000 heart attacks, stroke and heart failure, half of which would have been fatal.

“The Department of Health must now stop its delaying tactics and set new much lower targets for cheese manufacturers, and make sure they achieve them. The cheese industry must comply if we are to save the maximum number of lives”

Benefits of cheese

But others warned the conclusions Cash has drawn from its research paint an incomplete picture.

Dr Judith Bryans, director of the Dairy Council, a non-profit-making organisation, said: “The Cash survey is mixing up the effect of cheese on health with the effect of salt on health.

“Cheese provides a wide range of nutrients including protein, vitamins and important minerals such as calcium.

“Salt is an integral part of the cheese-making process. It is not added for taste or flavour but for safety and technical reasons.

“Cheese manufacturers have worked very hard to reduce salt levels in their products and worked constructively and positively with government agencies to do this whilst producing products which are nutritious, safe and acceptable to the consumer.”

Around 700,000 tonnes of cheese are consumed by UK households a year, and cheese is the third biggest contributor of salt to the UK diet after bacon and bread.

The Department of Health said it was tackling salt levels in food.

Public Health Minister Anna Soubry said: “Soon we will have a single front-of-pack labelling scheme which will make it easier for people to compare products, and choose the healthier options available.

“Through the Responsibility Deal, we are in discussions with industry about how they can further reduce the salt levels in their food.”


Cutting salt ‘would cut cancer’

Salt on bread
Salt is in many foods, such as bread.

Cutting back on salty foods such as bacon, bread and breakfast cereals may reduce people’s risk of developing stomach cancer, according to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).

It wants people to eat less salt and for the content of food to be labelled more clearly.

In the UK, the WCRF said one-in-seven stomach cancers would be prevented if people kept to daily guidelines.

Cancer Research UK said this figure could be even higher.

Too much salt is bad for blood pressure and can lead to heart disease and stroke, but it can also cause cancer.

The recommended daily limit is 6g, about a level teaspoonful, but the World Cancer Research Fund said people were eating 8.6g a day.


There are around 6,000 cases of stomach cancer every year in the UK. The WCRF estimated that 14% of cases, around 800, could be avoided if everyone stuck to their 6g a day.

Kate Mendoza, head of health information at WCRF, said: “Stomach cancer is difficult to treat successfully because most cases are not caught until the disease is well-established.

“This places even greater emphasis on making lifestyle choices to prevent the disease occurring in the first place – such as cutting down on salt intake and eating more fruit and vegetables.”

Eating too much salt is not all about sprinkling it over fish and chips or Sunday lunch, the vast majority is already inside food.

It is why the WCRF has called for a “traffic-light” system for food labelling – red for high, amber for medium and green for low.

However, this has proved controversial with many food manufacturers and supermarkets preferring other ways of labelling food.

Lucy Boyd, from Cancer Research UK, said: “This research confirms what a recently published report from Cancer Research UK has shown – too much salt also contributes considerably to the number of people getting stomach cancer in the UK.

“On average people in Britain eat too much salt and intake is highest in men.

“Improved labelling – such as traffic light labelling – could be a useful step to help consumers cut down.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “We already know too much salt can lead to conditions such as heart disease and stroke. That is why we are taking action through the ‘Responsibility Deal’ to help reduce the salt in people’s diets. And we are looking at clearer… labelling on foods as part of our consultation on front-of-pack labelling.

“We keep these findings under review alongside other emerging research in the field.”


Salt content warning over children’s meals

High salt content was found in main meals, side dishes and desserts

Children’s meals at some of the leading pub and fast food chains contain more salt than they should eat in an entire day, an investigation has found.

Children are not meant to eat more than 4g of salt a day.

Lunches at outlets including Nando’s and Wetherspoons exceeded that, Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash) found on testing over 160 meals.

Some of the 11 chains highlighted in the study said they would be reviewing their menus.

Nando’s and Wetherspoons both had children’s meals containing three times as much salt as a McDonald’s Happy Meal of a hamburger and fries.

A Nando’s veggie burger with creamy mash contained 5.3g of salt, while a Wetherspoons’ Wiltshire cured ham and cheese sandwich with chips had 4.8g.


The survey found significant variations in the amount of salt in meals even at the same restaurants.

But Cash said it was impossible for parents to make healthy choices because of a lack of nutritional information on menus.

It is an outrage that when families go out for a pub lunch, they may be unknowingly putting their children’s health at risk”

Katharine Jenner Cash

For example, Wetherspoons also offered an Annabel Karmel spaghetti bolognese containing just 0.1g of salt.

Other low-salt options included McDonald’s four-piece chicken nuggets and fruit bag, containing 0.4g of salt, while Wimpy fish bites with salad had 0.5g.

Side dishes were also found to contain high levels of salt with some containing nearly twice as much as main meals.

Mash and beans were typically found to be the combination containing the highest amount of salt, while a jacket potato, vegetables or salad contained the lowest amount.

Although all outlets offered a vegetable side option, just four included vegetables as part of all meals.

Desserts were also found to be a surprising source of hidden salt, Cash said, with five found to contain the same or more salt as a packet of crisps.

Cash campaign director Katharine Jenner said: “Children’s meals should provide tasty and healthy alternatives to more adult dishes.

“It is an outrage that when families go out for a pub lunch, they may be unknowingly putting their children’s health at risk.”

Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said it was reviewing the salt levels in some of its dishes.

“We take on board the findings of the report.”

And a spokesman for Nando’s said the chain was currently in the process of changing its menu and a new range of children’s dishes would be launched at the end of the month.


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