UK – China is confirmed to be among the nations in the world where salt intake is the highest, with most of its population consuming way higher than the recommended amount.

According to a new research led by Queen Mary University of London, adults in China have been consistently consuming above 10g of salt a day in the last four decades, an amount that is over double the recommended limit of 5g.

The new study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research and published in the Journal of the American Heart Association revealed that children aged three to six are eating the maximum amount of salt recommended for adults, while older children eat almost 9g a day.

The study took a review of China’s ever published data involving about 900 children and 26,000 adults, which showed consistently high salt intake with a divide between the north and south of the country.

High salt intake leads to high blood pressure, a major cause of strokes and heart disease, which account for 40% of Chinese deaths.

“Urgent action is needed in China to speed up salt reduction and increase potassium intake,” said Lead author Monique Tan from Queen Mary University of London.

“High blood pressure in childhood tracks into adulthood, leading to cardiovascular disease.”

“If you eat more salt whilst you are young, you are more likely to eat more salt as an adult, and to have higher blood pressure,” Tan said.

“These incredibly high salt, and low potassium, figures are deeply concerning for the future health of the Chinese population.”

Salt intake in Northern China was among the highest in the world at an average of 11.2g per day compared to 12.8g a day in the 1980s, indicating a progressive decline.

In Southern China, however, the trend has been moving upward, with daily average having increased from 8.8g in the 1980s to 10.2g in the 2010s.

The analysis also revealed that potassium intake has been consistently low throughout China for the past four decades, with individuals of all age groups consuming less than half the recommended minimum intakes.

“Salt intake in northern China declined but is still over double the maximum intake recommended by the WHO, while salt intake actually increased in southern China,” said Feng J He, Professor of Global Health Research at Queen Mary University of London.

“Most of the salt consumed in China comes from the salt added by the consumers themselves while cooking.

“However, there is now a rapid increase in the consumption of processed foods and of food from street markets, restaurants, and fast-food chains, and this must be addressed before the hard-won declines are offset.”

The researchers have recommended a coherent, workable and nationwide strategy that includes salt reduction and increase in potassium intake.