Bruneians take too much salt, MoH study finds

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OVER 70 per cent of adults in Brunei exceed the daily sodium intake recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), a Ministry of Health (MoH) study showed.

The study found that the average sodium intake among Bruneian participants was 2,697mg a day, with 70.5 per cent of the participants exceeding the WHO sodium recommendation of less than 2,000mg a day.

One hundred and seventy-two participants were surveyed on their dietary sources of sodium using a food frequency questionnaire, while their dietary sodium was estimated via their urinary sodium excretion over 24 hours.

According to the study, salt and sauces contributed to 61 per cent of the participants’ total sodium intake, with the highest sources of sodium from discretionary salt added during cooking, soy sauce, chilli and tomato sauces which were “added at the table”.

The majority of participants, or 75.4 per cent reported adding salt and sauces at the table twice a week or more.

Noodle soups and plain soups were also determined to be high sources of sodium for the study participants.

Meanwhile, processed foods contributed to 39 per cent of participants’ total sodium intake, with the four highest sources of sodium in this category being bread, crisps and snacks, instant noodles, canned and packet soups.

Results of the study were published in the latest edition of the Brunei International Medical Journal.

The highest proportion of participants who were found to have higher sodium intake were males and those in the 18 to 29 year age group, the authors said.

The mean urinary sodium excretion amount among males was 3,069mg per day, compared to females at 2,546mg a day.

The average age of study participants was 38.9 years, with females accounting for 70 per cent of the sample, and females who were menstruating had not been eligible to take part in the study, the study’s five authors said.

The authors said the sodium target in Brunei should be set at less than 2,000mg a day, in accordance with WHO recommendations.

“Sensibly, population-wide sodium reduction efforts in Brunei Darussalam should put emphasis on consumer education through mass media campaigns on discretionary salt and sauces added in cooking and at the table,” they said.

“Discretionary salt and sauces added at table essentially represents modifiable individuals’ dietary behaviour that may change over time and with education.”

The authors noted that their study “highlighted priority for future public health action on sodium”.

“Fundamentally, an environment that gears towards facilitating the change needs to be established.

“Hawkers and restaurants play an important role in establishing an enabling environment, by voluntarily removing salt shakers, soy, chilli and tomato sauces from the table and to gradually reduce sodium in plain soups and noodle soups,” they added.

In terms of processed foods, the authors acknowledged that the majority of food products in Brunei are manufactured outside the country.

“An effective sodium reduction strategy through product reformulation will need to involve engagement with multinational food manufacturers through various bilateral and regional cooperation mechanisms,” they said.

The Brunei Times