WHO Report on Sodium Intake Reduction


    In News

    • The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed the report to monitor progress and identify areas for action in the implementation of sodium reduction policies and other measures.

    Major Highlights of the Report

    • The world is off-track to achieve its global target of reducing sodium intake by 30 percent in the next two years (by 2025).
    • Reducing sodium intake is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve health and reduce the burden of noncommunicable diseases, as it can avert a large number of cardiovascular events and deaths at very low total programme costs.
    • The global burden of unhealthy diets constitutes a major public health and development challenge worldwide. Urgent action is required to modify the production and consumption of foods and beverages, including industry manufactured (pre-packaged) food. 
    • Only 5% of WHO Member States are protected by mandatory and comprehensive sodium reduction policies and 73% of WHO Member States lack full range of implementation of such policies.

    About Sodium 

    • Sodium is a chemical element with the symbol Na and atomic number 11.
    • Sodium is the sixth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and exists in numerous minerals such as feldspars, sodalite, and halite (NaCl).
    • The body needs a small amount of sodium to work properly, but too much sodium increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and premature death. 
    • The main source of sodium is table salt (sodium chloride), but it is also contained in other condiments such as sodium glutamate. 

    Issues with High Intake of Sodium

    • The largest number of diet-related deaths, an estimated 1.89 million each year, is associated with excessive intake of sodium, a well-established cause of raised blood pressure and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
    • The global average salt intake is estimated to be 10.8 grams per day, more than double the WHO recommendation of less than five grams of salt per day (one teaspoon). 
    • More evidence is emerging documenting links between high sodium intake and increased risk of other health conditions such as gastric cancer, obesity, osteoporosis and kidney disease.

    Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs)

    • NCDs, also known as chronic diseases, tend to be of long duration and are the result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioural factors.
    • The main types of NCD are cardiovascular diseases (such as heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes.
    • The major NCDs share four behavioral risk factors- unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, and use of tobacco and alcohol. Factors contributing to the rise of NCDs also include ageing, rapid unplanned urbanization and globalization.
    • NCDs including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease, are collectively responsible for 74% of all deaths worldwide. 

    NCDs in India

    • NCDs account for 60% of all deaths in India. 
    • Cardiovascular diseases (coronary heart disease, stroke, and hypertension) contribute to 45% of all NCD deaths followed by chronic respiratory disease (22 %), cancers (12 %) and diabetes (3%). 
    • Tobacco use has been identified as the single largest risk factor attributable to NCDs. 
    • The prevalence of obesity and overweight is also showing a rapid increase in trends.
    • Nearly one out of every ten persons aged 18 years and above in India has raised blood glucose
    • More than two-thirds of the adolescents aged 11-17 years are physically inactive in India as per WHO standards. The level of physical inactivity among adults is around 13 %. 

    Steps Taken by Government of India to Prevent NCDs

    • National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS): Government of India provides technical and financial support to the States/UTs under the programme as part of National Health Mission (NHM).
      • It focuses on strengthening infrastructure, human resource development, health promotion & awareness generation for Cancer prevention, early diagnosis, management and referral to an appropriate level of healthcare facility for treatment of the NCDs.
    • Screening under NHM: A population-based initiative for prevention, control and screening for common NCDs i.e. diabetes, hypertension and common cancers has been rolled out in the country under 
      • Under the initiative, persons more than 30 years of age are targeted for their screening for the three common cancers i.e oral, breast and cervical. 
      • Screening of these common cancers is an integral part of service delivery under Ayushman Bharat – Health and Wellness Centres.
    • Ayushman Bharat Health Wellness Centre scheme: Preventive aspect of Cancer is strengthened under Comprehensive Primary Health Care through scheme, by promotion of wellness activities and targeted communication at the community level. 
    • Awareness Programmes: Other initiatives for increasing public awareness about Cancer and for promotion of healthy lifestyle includes observation of National Cancer Awareness Day& World Cancer Day.
      • In addition, NPCDCS gives financial support under NHM for awareness generation (IEC) activities for Cancer to be taken by the States/UTs as per their Programme Implementation Plans (PIPs).
    • Fit India Movement: It is implemented by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, and various Yoga related activities are carried out by the Ministry of AYUSH. 

    Recommendations by WHO

    • WHO recommends lowering sodium content in food products; implementing front-of-pack labelling to help consumers select food products with lower sodium content; conducting mass media campaigns to alter consumer behaviour around sodium; and implementing public food procurement and service policies to reduce sodium content in food served or sold. 
    • Modelling indicates the estimated potential impact of policy implementation on sodium intake to be a 23% reduction, and on cardiovascular death a 3% reduction, globally, by 2030. 
    • Although the modelled global sodium reduction is below the 30% target by 2030, achieving the target can still be considered attainable with the rapid implementation of government-led and comprehensive mandatory sodium reduction policies and other measures.