February 04, 2009

Sodium to salt conversion

While consumer messages advocate salt reduction for health, health professionals know it is the sodium component of salt, comprising 40%, which needs to be targeted. So  in addition to salt ,other sources of sodium found in the diet such as sodium bicarbonate ( baking powder), monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium ascorbate ( sodium salt of ascorbic acid or Vitamiin C) and other sodium compounds must be considered.

Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand (1) refer to sodium requirements not salt and Nutrition Information Panels on product labels, in accordance with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, must list sodium content, not salt (2). A product may not contaiin salt (sodium chloride) but may still be high in sodium because of the presence of naturally occurring sodium or other sodium containing ingredients. It's therefore not surprising that a recent survey by the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH) found that consumers did not know how to work out the salt contents of foods (3).

To convert the sodium information on product labels or elsewhere to salt , use the following rule:-

millgrams of sodium X 2.5 = milligrams of salt 

For example 200mg of sodium equates to 500milligrams or 0.5 grams of salt ( 200mg x2.5=500mg salt or 0.5grams)

To convert milligrams of salt to milligrams of sodium divide salt contents by 2.5.

References

1. Department of Health and Aging, NHMRC, NZ Ministry of Health. Nutrient reference values for Australia and New Zealand - Executive Summary 2006

2. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/thecode/foodstandscode.cfm

3. AWAS Media Release. Clearer food labels the answer to low salt diets.  28th May 2008 www.awash.org.au

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