According to a pilot study, the reduction in the volume of salt in bread planned for 2021 will mean that every Portuguese person eats between 0.3 and 0.5 grams less salt per day. The conclusion is contained in the final report of a study by the National Health Institute Doutor Ricardo Jorge (INSA), which estimates that the greatest reductions in salt consumption are reflected in men between the ages of 55 and 74, especially in Alentejo who consume more bread.
The basis of the study is the national strategy to promote a healthy diet, which contains a protocol signed in 2017 between INSA, the General Directorate Health and the bakery industry, which aims to voluntarily reduce the amount of salt in bread to the maximum of one gram per 100 by 2021.
INSA recommends that the voluntary protocol be passed on to “effective legislative measures” applicable to “all operators in the sector, particularly bakery manufacturers and large retailers, including packaged breads”.
It is also recommended that “the same type of regulation be extended to other categories and foods that are heavily consumed by the Portuguese population, namely meat, soups and other processed products” such as french fries, snacks, crackers and cereals.
To be achieved, the goal means reducing the volume of salt in bread by 29%, which translates into a reduction in consumption of 0.51 grams per day for men and 0.32 grams for women.
Citing other studies, INSA believes the effect of lowering salt in bread on blood pressure “will be small to have an important impact on reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease”.
“Due to the other risk factors, however, there are no precisely defined thresholds”. However, a reduction brings some benefit.
INSA notes that existing evidence suggests that “voluntary reductions” passed by industry “are not effective enough to consistently reduce the population’s salt use”.
Compulsory reduction measures generate 20 times higher profits than voluntary ones, says the institute.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Portugal, one of the European countries with the highest number of stroke deaths.
The Portuguese consume an average of 7.3 grams of salt per day, which is above the maximum of 05 grams recommended by the World Health Organization.
“Because of their high consumption, bread and its derivatives are the foods that contribute most to salt consumption, which can lead to an increase in high blood pressure situations and the risk of cardiovascular disease,” the study says.