Researchers with the London-based group studied 157 meat-free products from popular retailers and found that 28 percent of them had higher salt levels than the recommended guidelines.
Burgers made from meat substitutes, they learned, contained about 0.89 grams of salt per serving compared to real beef burgers, which averaged 0.75 grams per portion. Approximately 20 percent of the products were not properly labeled to reveal nutritional information, including salt levels.
According to the survey, Tofurky's Deli Slices Hickory Smoked emerged the saltiest meat-free product examined with a whopping 3.5 grams of salt per serving. Compare that to the 2.5 grams of salt found in 100 grams of seawater.
“People don't tend to think as meat alternatives as an unhealthy product,” Mhairi Brown, Action on Salt nutritionist and the researcher behind the survey, told CNN. But this “health halo is concealing quite high levels of salt.”
Public Health England guidelines recommend a maximum daily salt intake of 3 grams for adults, a goal to be reached by 2050 meant to tackle the population’s cardiovascular problems.
High salt consumption means excess sodium in the bloodstream, which over time “can stiffen blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke,” according to researchers at Harvard University. They also found that people in their study with the highest sodium intakes had a 20 percent higher risk of death from any cause than those with the lowest sodium intakes.
According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Americans are advised to consume “less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day as part of a healthy eating pattern,” but about 90 percent of Americans ages 2 and older consume too much sodium.
In fact, a United States Department of Health and Human Services report this year found that Americans average 3.4 grams of sodium per day — nearly 50 percent more than recommended guidelines.
The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that reducing sodium intake will lower high blood pressure and in turn, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, specifically in adults with prehypertension and hypertension.
“Because nearly 400,000 deaths each year are attributed to high blood pressure, reducing sodium intake could prevent thousands of deaths annually,” the CDC added.
Reducing sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day may also save $18 billion in health care dollars, the agency wrote.
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