## The real math on average sodium intake

### April 12, 2008

The FDA’s recommendation for adults “safe” daily sodium intake is 2,300 mg. In reality most Americans consume anywhere from 3,000-4,000 mg daily. What exactly does that look like?

Well thanks to Carl, a valued reader and expert numbers cruncher, it looks like this:

2300 milligrams = 0.005070632 lbs
.005070632 x 365 days a year = 839500 milligrams per year
839500 milligrams = 1.850780689 or about 2 pounds

2 pounds of sodium is supposed to be safe? 2 pounds is a lot of pinches here and there.

But it gets worse. Here’s what most Americans are really consuming:

4,000mg = 0.008818490487395103 pounds per day
0.008818490487395103  x 365 = 3.21 pounds of sodium per year.

That way too much sodium!

Where does it come from? About 11 percent of the sodium in the average U.S. diet comes from adding salt or other sodium-containing condiments to foods while cooking or eating. But the majority of the sodium — 77 percent —comes from eating prepared or processed foods that contain the mineral. So even though you may limit the amount of salt you add to food, the food itself may already be high in sodium. (Hint: Check labels and compare.)

Your body needs some sodium to function properly.

Sodium:
Helps maintain the right balance of fluids in your body
Helps transmit nerve impulses
Influences the contraction and relaxation of muscles
Your kidneys regulate the amount of sodium kept in your body. When sodium levels are low, your kidneys conserve sodium. When levels are high, they excrete the excess amount in urine.

If your kidneys can’t eliminate enough sodium, the sodium starts to accumulate in your blood. Because sodium attracts and holds water, your blood volume increases. Increased blood volume, in turn, makes your heart work harder to move more blood through your blood vessels, increasing pressure in your arteries. Certain diseases such as congestive heart failure, cirrhosis and chronic kidney disease can lead to an inability to regulate sodium.

After five kidney stones and surgery Carl has significantly altered his lifestyle. He avoids pre-made foods and does a lot more home cooking to control what he eats. “I’ve cut out a lot of junk this way,” Carl says. Way to go Carl! Here’s to continued good health!