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Reported Use and Perceived Understanding of Sodium Information on US Nutrition Labels
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  • Description:
    Introduction

    Comparing nutrition labels and choosing lower sodium foods are tactics to help reduce excessive sodium intake, a major risk factor for hypertension. Our objective was to assess US adult consumers’ reported use and perceived understanding of sodium information on nutrition labels by sociodemographic and health status.

    Methods

    We analyzed responses to questions from 3,729 adults aged 18 years or older participating in 2 national cross-sectional mail panel surveys in 2010.

    Results

    We found that 19.3% (95% confidence interval [CI], 17.2%–21.6%) of respondents agreed they were confused about how to figure out how much sodium is in the foods they eat; 57.9% (95% CI, 55.4%–60.5%) reported that they or the person who shops for their food buy items labeled low salt or low sodium; and 46.8% (95% CI, 44.3%–49.4%) reported they check nutrition labels for sodium content as a tactic to limit salt. Consumers with a high school education or less were more likely than college graduates to report they were confused about sodium content on labels (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 1.9; 95% CI, 1.4–2.8) and less likely to check labels for sodium as a tactic to limit salt intake (AOR, 0.7; 95% CI, 0.6–0.98).

    Conclusion

    Most survey respondents in our study reported buying low sodium food items. However, a higher proportion of respondents with low education than respondents with high education reported confusion with and less use of sodium content information, suggesting enhanced efforts may be needed to assist this group. Opportunity exists for health care professionals to educate patients about using and understanding nutrition labels and consuming a diet consistent with the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan.

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