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Too much salt in restaurant food?

May 11, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A new study calls attention to how much salt is in the food at some very popular restaurants. Researchers studied 17 restaurant chains and found that some meals contain double or even triple the recommended daily amount of sodium.

Dangerous levels of sodium are lurking everywhere, from cheeseburger lasagna to Caesar salad.

"The sodium content is built into the food," said Michael Jacobson, executive director, Center for the Science in the Public Interest.

Researchers identified the 10 saltiest meals found in some of the most popular restaurants.

Among the saltiest was Chili's Buffalo Chicken Fajitas with a soda. That meal registered at 6,916 milligrams of sodium, or 3 teaspoons of table salt. Denny's double cheeseburger with onion rings, rice pilaf and tomato juice held up at a hefty 6,360 milligrams of sodium. In other words, the meal was the equivalent of almost 3 teaspoons of salt.

Experts say healthy individuals should have no more than 2,300 milligrams of salt. But for those with health issues, like high blood pressure, 70 percent of the population should have no more than 1,500 milligrams.

Researchers also looked into the kids meals.

Red Lobster's chicken fingers with a biscuit, fries and lemonade has 2,430 milligrams of sodium, which is two days' worth of recommended sodium for kids. KFC's Popcorn Chicken with macaroni cheese, Teddy Grahams and 2 percent milk is 2,005 milligrams of sodium.

"And it's in childhood when we get used to a certain kind of diet," said Jacobson.

When you have too much sodium in your blood, it actually increases blood volume, which forces your heart to work harder, increasing pressure on arteries. The condition can lead not only to high blood pressure, but also to heart failure, kidney disease or stroke.

"If you lowered the sodium levels of food in the American diet by 25 percent, that would save $20 billion a year in medical costs," said Jacobson.

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