Mr Ivor Callely T.D. Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children today, (27 April 2004) launched the Irish Heart Foundation´s Conference on Salt, Functional Foods and Heart Health.
"I am pleased to be here today to open this Conference on Salt, Functional Foods and Heart Health. My Departments association with the Irish Heart Foundation has been a long-term and highly beneficial relationship in the development of health promotion initiatives and resources" stated the Minister.
Until recently population health strategies to reduce salt consumption were challenged because of lack of evidence. However, evidence is building that on a population-wide basis, a relatively modest reduction in salt intake has a significant effect on blood pressure and is likely to produce substantial falls in stroke and coronary heart disease mortality. For example it is estimated that in Ireland a reduction in salt consumption of 3 grams - 1/2 teaspoon approx - per day, would reduce the incidence of stroke by 13% and the incidence of coronary heart disease by 10%.
In addition to the increasing evidence of adverse effects of a high salt intake, the recent Cardiovascular strategy included a recommendation that the Food Safety Authority of Ireland should examine dietary salt intake and advise on a national policy on salt, The Minister added that "the Department looks forward to considering their advice, in further efforts to reduce salt consumption and therefore coronary heart disease and stroke."
The Health Promotion Unit of the Department of Health and Children has increased activity in the area of nutrition through a number of initiatives including the National Healthy Eating Campaigns and the publication of Healthy Nutrition Guidelines for Primary School and Preschools.
As a direct result of funding to the Cardiovascular Health Strategy there are now over sixty additional community dietitians in post. These dietitians have formed partnerships with community groups to provide nutrition education, cookery programmes and healthy eating projects.
The aim of the conference is to debate the evidence around salt consumption and to consider options for the reduction in salt intake in the Irish population. The Minister concluded. "As with all diet related diseases reducing salt levels in food will require the co-operation of many agencies including the food industry."