Vital signs: food categories contributing the most to sodium consumption - United States, 2007-2008

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2012 Feb 10;61(5):92-8.


Background: Most of the U.S. population consumes sodium in excess of daily guidelines (<2,300 mg overall and 1,500 mg for specific populations). Excessive sodium consumption raises blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the nation's first and fourth leading causes of death. Identifying food categories contributing the most to daily sodium consumption can help reduction.

Methods: Population proportions of sodium consumption from specific food categories and sources were estimated among 7,227 participants aged ≥2 years in the What We Eat in America, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2007-2008.

Results: Mean daily sodium consumption was 3,266 mg, excluding salt added at the table. Forty-four percent of sodium consumed came from 10 food categories: bread and rolls, cold cuts/cured meats, pizza, poultry, soups, sandwiches, cheese, pasta mixed dishes, meat mixed dishes, and savory snacks. For most of these categories, >70% of the sodium consumed came from foods obtained at a store. For pizza and poultry, respectively, 51% and 27% of sodium consumed came from foods obtained at fast food/pizza restaurants. Mean sodium consumption per calorie consumed was significantly greater for foods and beverages obtained from fast food/pizza or other restaurants versus stores.

Implications for public health practice: Average sodium consumption is too high, reinforcing the importance of implementing strategies to reduce U.S. sodium intake. Nationwide, food manufacturers and restaurants can strive to reduce excess sodium added to foods before purchase. States and localities can implement policies to reduce sodium in foods served in institutional settings (e.g., schools, child care settings, and government cafeterias). Clinicians can counsel most patients to check food labels and select foods lower in sodium.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet*
  • Fast Foods
  • Food / classification*
  • Food Labeling
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Policy*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sodium, Dietary / analysis*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Sodium, Dietary