by Susanne Siebel
Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City started a campaign to reduce sodium in processed foods over the next five years in hopes to lower high blood pressure in Americans.
Mayor Bloomberg is attacking this “silent killer” because many sodium levels found in foods are higher than people think. Due to an increase in salt consumption, doctors believe it has become a major contributor to spike in high blood pressure problems affecting roughly 77 million people nationwide.
High blood pressure leads to heart attack, stroke, kidney damage and other life threatening occurrences. Salt is closely connected to high blood pressure because salt retains water in the blood cells. If salt makes blood cells retain water, it takes up more room and the blood volume. Once once the blood volume increases, it puts more pressure on the walls of the veins and arteries, increasing the pressure. Once in the heart, this blood is harder to pump and move through the circulatory system, and the heart must work harder. Over time, the heart becomes tired, leading to heart attack, stroke, and kidney damage.
Because heart disease kills more people each year than any other ailment, Mayor Bloomberg wants to fight it. His proposal is to reduce the salt in foods by twenty-five percent over the next five years. Bloomberg chose to spread out the process in hopes that this gradual reduction would be less noticed by consumers.
However, it should come as no surprise to New Yorkers. As William Neuman reported for The New York Times wrote, “The plan is voluntary for food companies and involves no legislation.”
Others within the food industry generally support Bloomberg’s quest. Douglas A. Palmer, vice president for store brands at A. & P. states, “We think it’s a very realistic set of criteria that our suppliers can adhere to.”
Despite the apparent health benefits associated with Bloomberg’s plan, others believe the consumer should be free to determine the amount of salt they choose to consume.
In addition to reducing sodium in New Yorkers’ diets, the Mayor has banned Trans fat in restaurants and has strongly urged them to display calorie information on their menus. His effort to make America healthier is a battle he wants to win.