Around the world, 32 different countries now pursue salt reduction initiatives, according to a first-of-its-kind study published in the June 2011 issue of theJournal of Hypertension. Central governments led 26 of these programs with nongovernmental or advocacy organizations managing five and industry one.

“For most countries, implementing a national salt reduction program is likely to be one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways of improving public health,” said the report’s authors, led by Jacqueline Webster from the University of Sydney, Australia, and senior project manager for the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health. Researchers found that 27 of the countries mounting such initiatives had high salt intake, 5 to 8 g per person per day. (Common table salt is 40% sodium, so 5 to 8 g salt contains 2,000 to 4,800 mg sodium.)

The majority (19) of the salt reduction initiatives concerned Europe, with six in the Americas and seven in the Western Pacific Region. No salt reduction strategies were identified in Africa.

Persuading people to consume less sodium is not easy. Education alone won’t do the job, according to researchers. Instead, they prescribed changes to the environment that make it easy for the population as a whole to consume less salt.

“Providing low-salt alternatives without category-wide reductions in salt content is not acceptable since such products are typically very different in taste, will not be purchased by consumers and will be rapidly discontinued by manufacturers and retailers,” the scientists said.