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What do wine and sea salt have in common? (4/25)

April 25, 2011
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Most Americans believe drinking wine is good for your heart but are unaware of recommended alcohol limits, and most mistakenly believe sea salt is a low-sodium alternative to regular table salt, according to a new survey about these common products.

The American Heart Association surveyed 1,000 American adults to assess their awareness and beliefs about how wine and salt affect heart health. Many studies have reported the benefits of limited wine intake for heart health and the risks of too much salt.

Seventy-six percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement that wine can be good for your heart. Drinking too much can be unhealthy, yet only 30 percent of those surveyed knew the American Heart Association’s recommended limits for daily wine consumption.

“This survey shows that we need to do a better job of educating people about the heart-health risks of overconsumption of wine, especially its possible role in increasing blood pressure,” said Gerald Fletcher, M.D., American Heart Association spokesperson and professor of medicine - cardiovascular diseases, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla.

If you drink any alcohol, including wine, beer and spirits, the American Heart Association recommends that you do so in moderation. Limit consumption to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women ― for example, that’s generally 8 ounces of wine for men and four ounces of wine for women. Heavy and regular alcohol use of any type of alcohol can dramatically increase blood pressure. It can also cause heart failure, lead to stroke and produce irregular heartbeats. Heavy drinking can contribute to high triglycerides, cancer, obesity, alcoholism, suicide and accidents.

The survey also showed that many Americans are confused about low-sodium food choices and don’t know the primary source of sodium in American diets. Excessive sodium can increase blood pressure in some people, increasing the risk of heart diseases and stroke.

Sixty-one percent of respondents incorrectly agreed that sea salt is a low-sodium alternative to table salt. Kosher salt and most sea salt are chemically the same as table salt (40 percent sodium), and they count the same toward total sodium consumption.

Forty-six percent said table salt is the primary source of sodium in American diets, which is also incorrect. Up to 75 percent of the sodium that Americans consume is found in processed foods such as tomato sauce, soups, condiments, canned foods and prepared mixes.

“High-sodium diets are linked to an increase in blood pressure and a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. You must remember to read the Nutrition Facts panel and ingredient list on food and beverages,” said Dr. Fletcher.

The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. To effectively limit sodium intake, when buying prepared and prepackaged foods, you should read the nutrition and ingredient labels. Sodium compounds are present whenever food labels include the words “soda” and “sodium,” and the chemical symbol “Na.”

The American Heart Association has more information on its website at: www.heart.org.

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