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the real cost of upsizing

Forget AIDS, cancer, and famine for a moment, because now increased blood pressure is the most common cause of death in the world! Even if you don’t have it by middle age, the Framingham study, ongoing for the last 50 years in Framingham, Massachusetts, tells us you have a 90 per cent risk of getting hypertension before you die.

sodium is the culprit

There are several reasons why we develop high blood pressure. But sodium (one component of salt) is considered the key culprit. Members of salt-free tribal societies around the world have almost a zero risk of dying from high blood pressure. Chimpanzees eating nothing but fruit and vegetables develop high blood pressure when salt is added, and only when this occurs.

While blood pressure rises faster in some people and slower in others, it still rises, especially as you consume more sodium. The good news is that you can prevent this rise and even manage hypertension without medication by controlling your salt intake.

but I don’t use salt!

Many people who don’t add salt to their cooking or use a salt shaker believe they are following a low-salt diet, but research shows that up to 80 percent of the sodium you eat comes hidden in processed foods, including common staples such as bread, cheese, and cereals.

Cutting down on salt is healthy for the whole family. Halving the amount of salt children eat results in an almost immediate fall in their blood pressure and lessens the subsequent rise in their blood pressure with age.

Reducing sodium intake is particularly important if you are overweight, an older person, or already have high blood pressure.

hints for a low-sodium diet

  1. Eat mostly fresh foods, and eat them without any added salt.
  2. Buy only those processed foods that contain less than 120 mg sodium per 100 g of product. Check food labels.
  3. Look for “Low Sodium,” “Low Salt,” or “No Added Salt.” “Reduced Salt” products are required to contain only 25 percent less sodium, so the final level may still be very high.

Nutritionist Sue Radd is the award-winning author of The Breakfast Book and co-author of Eat To Live, internationally acclaimed for showing how savvy eating can combat cancer and heart disease and improve well-being. See the latest at

Food Matters

by Sue Radd
From the August 2007 Signs