Friday, 13 April 2012

Fact of the Day: HK Eats Too Much Salt

This is a shocking statistic -- Hong Kong people eat twice the amount of salt recommended by the World Health Organisation.

According to university researchers, this means a higher risk of stroke in all ages.

The average daily salt intake in the city is 10g, while the WHO recommends less than 5g, said Dr Ruth Chan Suk-mei, medicine and therapeutics research associate at Chinese University.

One reason is that many people here eat a lot of processed food, which has high salt content, and by lunchtime they could have already eaten 10g of salt in their food.

That's a scary thought, because high salt intake causes higher blood pressure that can lead to stroke, and is the fourth most common cause of death and prime cause of disability in Hong Kong.

The university's Centre for Nutritional Studies and the government's Centre for Food Safety show a typical breakfast of satay beef noodles has 6.08g of salt, and a lunch of beef brisket rice has 5.44g, totalling 11.52g.

Researchers say from 1995 to 2001, 13 out of every 100,000 people here were affected by strokes. This rose to 15 people for every 100,000 from 2005 to 2007. In 2010, Department of Health figures say 8 percent of all deaths are related to strokes.

So if people who usually ate 10g of salt per day reduced the amount, the incidence of stroke worldwide would decrease by 23 percent, saving 1.25 million lives per year, according to British advocacy group World Action on Salt and Health.

Professor Mandy Sea Man-mei, the manager of the Centre for Nutritional Studies says the youngest stroke patient she saw here was a 14-year-old boy.

He ate instant noodles everyday with a lot of seasoning powder so his blood pressure was up to 180/90.

After he reduced his salt intake eating better food, his blood pressure is now normal at 110/70.

He is not unusual -- there are many people who think this is fine to eat everyday or most days; many people at the supermarket stock up on these easy-to-eat noodles because they don't want to cook from scratch or don't know how.

"It usually takes around four weeks for people to get used to a low-salt diet. After that they usually find that they can taste the original flavours of different foods, which they hadn't known before," Sea said.

Hong Kong really needs to do more to educate its people about nutrition. Not only do they eat too much salt, but way too much sugar too.

Preventive medicine, folks. We all need to do our bit to stay healthy, or it's going to cost us the quality of our lives and the healthcare system.


  1. i am not a bit surprised at all as most chinese traditionally hold on to the idea that when we eat TASTE is the most important. chinese also have a wrong belief that salt will provide ENERGY. we really need to revamp our attitude towards food value to our bodies.

  2. In Hong Kong's case, many people need to eat on the run and depend on fast food places to fill their stomachs. Most of these places add a lot of salt to the food. If we all cooked more of our own food that would be a lot better, but then the blame would be on the developers for building such small kitchens!