Policy Options for Reducing Dietary Sodium Intake

41 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2012

See all articles by Lindsay McLaren

Lindsay McLaren

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: June 19, 2012


Faced with soaring health-care costs, Canadian governments should consider creative ways to enable the population to stay healthy — and making it possible for Canadians to reduce their sodium intake is an extremely cost-effective way to do so. Excess sodium consumption is a risk factor for high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. On average, Canadians consume 3,400 mg of sodium a day (1,100 mg over recommended levels), at least three-quarters of which comes from processed foods. Any attempt at sodium reduction must therefore involve the food industry. This paper surveys sodium reduction efforts in jurisdictions around the globe, as well as past Canadian attempts, to provide provincial and federal policymakers with a comprehensive suite of lessons learned and a host of far-sighted policy recommendations ranging from food procurement to legislation and private sector engagement. Provincial governments, individually or together, must launch multi-pronged efforts involving food service companies, manufacturers, post-secondary institutes and the media to ensure that low-sodium alternatives are readily available, and that consumers are aware of them. They must also support federal action on changing dietary guidelines and introducing restrictions on food advertising to children. The benefits to be had are very real. In light of evidence showing that population level intervention is superior to clinical intervention in terms of cost-effectiveness, returning up to $11.10 for every dollar spent and generating tens of billions in direct health-care savings, there is a very strong case for investing in population-level sodium reduction interventions that will work. The time for governments to act is now.

Keywords: sodium, salt, consumption, intervention, government, diet, nutrition, Canada, hypertension, health, reduction, population

JEL Classification: H51, I1, I10, I12, I18, L66

Suggested Citation

McLaren, Lindsay, Policy Options for Reducing Dietary Sodium Intake (June 19, 2012). SPP Research Paper No. 12-20, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2087820 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2087820

Lindsay McLaren (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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