MRC Elsie Widdowson Laboratory

Estimated salt intake status for adults (19 to 64 years) in England now published

Today, Public Health England published the latest 24-hour urine estimated salt intake results from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Assessment of dietary sodium Adults (19 to 64 years) in England, 2014. The report covers urinary sodium excretion and estimated salt intake results for 689 adults aged 19 to 64 years in England, based on analysis of 24-hour urine samples collected over five months (May to September) in 2014. An identical survey was run concurrently in Scotland and results were published on the 23rd March 2016.The report for a recent sodium survey in Northern Ireland was published on 28th July 2016.

HNR provides the scientific lead for the UK NDNS Rolling Programme and country-specific sodium surveys are carried out in collaboration with NatCen Social Research.

There is an established relationship between salt intake and risk of high blood pressure (BP). High blood pressure (hypertension) is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and scientific evidence shows that a high salt intake can contribute to the development of elevated blood pressure. CVD is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the UK and worldwide. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) in 2015 estimated that CVD causes 155,000 deaths in the UK and costs the UK economy £19 billion annually. Dietary modification is a major component in the preventative strategy to reduce the risk of CVD. Targeted public awareness campaigns by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have aimed to inform the population about health risks associated with high salt consumption. More recently the national Change 4 Life campaign has focused on healthy lifestyles, including salt reduction. These campaigns have advised individuals to decrease their salt intake to no more than 6g/day (less for children). For more information about salt intake and effects on health, please visit the NHS website and Change 4 Life website.

This report provides the latest assessment of salt intake in adults (19 to 64 years) in England and includes an updated trend analysis, which supersedes that presented in the previous England 2011 report. As part of the current report, work was undertaken to enable comparison of data from different time points which were obtained using different laboratory methods. Estimated salt intake was calculated using the equation 17.1mmol of sodium = 1g of salt and assumes all sodium was derived from salt. Results for estimated salt intake are compared with the Scientific Advisory Committee for Nutrition (SACN) threshold for population salt intake to reduce to no more than 6g per day.

Key findings

Estimated salt intake in England in 2014

  • In 2014, mean estimated salt intake for adults aged 19 to 64 years was 8.0g/day (33% higher than the SACN recommended maximum); 9.1g/day for men and 6.8g/day for women. Median estimated salt intake was 7.6g/day (27% above the SACN recommended maximum); 8.6g/day for men, 6.2g/day for women.
  • As in the past, the distribution of sodium excretion/estimated salt intake among the adult population aged 19 to 64 years was wide, ranging from 0.8g/day to 24.2g/day. The estimated salt intake of adult men aged 19 to 64 years was on average higher than women of the same age.

Estimated salt intake in England 2005/06 – 2014

  • The revised trend analysis, which investigated both gradual trends and step-changes between 2005/06 and 2014, used log-transformed data and geometric means due to the skewed nature of the data. The results showed a downward linear trend in the geometric mean salt intake from 2005/06 (8.1g/day) to 2014 (7.2g/day). This 0.9g difference equates to a relative reduction in mean estimated salt intake of approximately 11%.
  • This is a smaller difference than found in the earlier trend analysis published with the 2011 survey, due to (a) adjustments of data from previous analytical surveys to take account of changes in laboratory analytical methods for sodium over time (b) a focus on England only urinary sodium data (rather than UK data as used in the previously published trend analysis) and (c) exclusion of data from the 2000/01 NDNS of adults aged 19 to 64 years from this analysis (this was included in the previous trend analysis).
  • There was a statistically significant downward step-change in salt intake between 2005/06 and 2008/09. The change in mean estimated salt intake between 2005/06 and 2008/09 was 0.5g/day. This difference equates to a relative reduction in mean estimated salt intake of approximately 6%. Whilst the data suggest further gradual decline in subsequent years, there was no statistically significant downward linear trend or further significant step-change between the remaining neighbouring years from 2008/09 to 2014.

For more information and data, see the full report on the UK government website.

See also