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Sodium and sugar reduction initiative considerations

Whether sodium and sugar reduction are achieved by direct replacement, lowering formulation levels or the utilization of other ingredients for function and flavor, the work will require experience and expertise across multiple disciplines.

James Van Fleet is quoted with the truism, “Output always equals input.” As such, the food industry is a custodian of the health of billions worldwide, delivering processed foods to the global marketplace. The American Heart Association (AHA) reports processed foods are responsible for more than 70% of sodium intake, driving the per person average of 3,400 mg sodium per day, a level almost 50% higher than the 2,300 mg sodium per day recommended in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). 

Regarding sugar, the average U.S. consumer’s annual consumption of two pounds 200 years ago grew to 123 pounds per year in 1970 and 152 pounds per year in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This is nearly four times the updated recommendation for sugar intake.

A high amount of sodium in the diet has been linked with high blood pressure and may also have other harmful effects on health including increased risk for stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and kidney disease, according to the AHA. The mechanisms underlying sodium-induced increases in blood pressure (BP) are not completely understood, but may involve alterations in renal function, fluid volume, fluid regulatory hormones, the vasculature, cardiac function, and the autonomic nervous system. Recent preclinical and clinical data support that even in the absence of an increase in BP, excess dietary sodium can adversely affect target organs, including the blood vessels, heart, kidneys and brain (JACC. 2015;65[10]:1042-1050).

A higher percentage of calories from added sugar is associated with significantly increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality, and regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with elevated CVD mortality (JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174[4]:516-524). Frequently drinking sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with weight gain/obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney diseases, non-alcoholic liver disease, tooth decay and cavities, and gout, a type of arthritis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).

Whether sodium and sugar reduction are achieved by direct replacement, lowering formulation levels or the utilization of other ingredients for function and flavor, the work will require experience and expertise across multiple disciplines that many food companies no longer retain or can no longer afford. New labeling laws and Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) compliance have stretched internal resources. Food safety must be held as a top priority, which further demands expertise in food chemistry, ingredient interactions, quality, regulatory compliance, microbiology, manufacturing processes and packaging. As projects progress, sensory, analytical and shelf life testing also will be needed.

To read this article in full, check out the "Sugar and sodium reduction strategies" digital magazine. 

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