The Science of Salt & Health

Cardiovascular disease in Ireland

Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, stroke and related diseases is the single highest cause of death in Ireland, accounting for over two in five (approximately 41%) of all deaths. High blood pressure is one of the major modifiable causal factors in the development of cardiovascular disease.

High dietary salt intake

In recent decades, a substantial body of evidence has emerged from observational and experimental research to suggest that high dietary salt intake is an important causal factor in the rise in blood pressure with age and in the development of essential hypertension in industrialised countries such as Ireland.

Benefits to reducing salt in your diet

There is also evidence that relatively modest reductions in salt intake have the potential to produce a significant fall in average blood pressure at a population level, with a concomitant substantial impact on the burden of morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular disease.

How much salt are we consuming?

The average daily salt intake in Ireland is high - approximately 10g in adults. Data are lacking on salt intake in children; however, data from the UK suggest that average daily salt intake in children aged 4-6 years and 7-10 years exceeds 5g and 6g, respectively. These intakes are well in excess of physiological requirements. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 1.6g/70 mmol sodium (4g salt) per day for adults. Over 90% of the sodium in the diet is in the form of sodium chloride (salt); 1g of sodium is equivalent to 2.54g of salt.

Main sources of salt in the diet

It is estimated that about 15-20% of total dietary sodium intake is from discretionary sources (salt added in cooking and at table), 15% from naturally occurring sodium in unprocessed foods and about 65-70% from manufactured foods. Two food groups (meat/fish, particularly processed meats and bread) account for over 50% of salt intake from foods, with the remainder contributed by various other processed foods, including milk products, soups and sauces, spreading fats, biscuits/cakes/pastries/confectionery and breakfast cereals.

Salt and Health: Review of the Scientific Evidence and Recommendations for Public Policy in Ireland

Last reviewed: 22/4/2016

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