HealthDay News — Worldwide, average daily salt consumption is almost double the level recommended by WHO, translating into a significant negative impact on cardiovascular health, study results suggest.

In 2010, average daily sodium intake per person was 3,950 mg, according to Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues. This figure is well above both the 2,000 mg WHO recommendation and the 1,500 mg American Heart Association recommendation.

Consequently, excess sodium intake resulted in an estimated 2.3 million deaths from cardiovascular disease in 2010 — 42% attributable to myocardial infarction and 41% from stroke. More than 80% of deaths associated with excess sodium intake occurred in low- and mid-income countries, the researchers reported at the AHA’s 2013 Scientific Sessions.

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“This study is the first time that information about sodium intake by country, age and gender is available,” co-author Saman Fahimi, MD, MPhil, of Harvard School of Public Health’s epidemiology department, said in a press release. “We hope our findings will influence national governments to develop public health interventions to lower sodium.” 

The researchers conducted a systematic review of published and unpublished estimates from 247 surveys of adult sodium intake 2007 through 2012 as part of the Global Burden of Diseases study. Half of the data included objective 24-hour urinary sodium measurements and the rest relied on dietary surveys.

The analysis included participants from 66 countries, about 74% of the world population, and the researchers performed imputation modeling with country-level and survey-level covariates to extend the analysis to 187 countries.

Overall, 119 countries — about 88% of the globe — averaged more than 3,000 mg of dietary sodium per day. Only six nations had national averages that met WHO limits of 2,000 mg per day, and only Kenya met the AHA’s 1,500 mg per day cut off.

Central Asia ranks highest in salt consumption, averaging 5,500 g sodium per day. Other high-income countries in the Asia Pacific region averaged 5,000 g sodium per day, followed by East Asia at 4,800 g per day.

Among world regions, east sub-Saharan Africa ranked lowest in salt consumption, with a daily mean sodium intake of 2,200 g.In comparison, American adults averaged about 3,600 mg of dietary sodium a day.

From 1990 to 2010, the global sodium intake increased by 124 mg per day, with an increase of more than 100 mg per day in 83 countries and a decrease of more than 100 mg/day in 15 countries.

“National and global public health measures, such as comprehensive sodium reduction programs, could potentially save millions of lives,” Mozaffarian said.


  1. Mozaffarian D et al. Abstract #28.
  2. Fahimi S et al. Abstract #17.

Both presented at: American Heart Association’s Epidemiology & Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity & Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions. March 19-22, 2013; New Orleans.