Study shows Moldovans consume double the recommended salt intake

WHO

A new study reveals that Moldovans consume double the recommended 5 g of salt per day. The WHO study is the first research on salt intake to be conducted in the Republic of Moldova.

The study also shows the following.

  • In rural areas, salt intake is 11.3 g of salt per day, while in urban areas, it is 10.0 g per day. This could be explained by the fact that the people from rural areas add more salt while cooking and consume foods with a higher salt content – such as pickled vegetables, salty cheeses and breads – more frequently.
  • Bread is the biggest contributor of salt in the diet: every 100 g of bread contains an average of 1.85 g of salt. More than half the population surveyed (55.4%) consumed bread 2 to 3 times per day, with a higher proportion among people living in rural areas (61.6%) than urban areas (45.4%).
  • Fruit and vegetable consumption is generally low: more than half the population surveyed (56.4%) reported eating fewer than 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day. This leaves them at higher risk of developing noncommunicable diseases.

Multisectoral approach to reduce salt intake

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in the Republic of Moldova, accounting for more than half of all deaths (approximately 57%). One of the major causal factors for cardiovascular diseases is high blood pressure. Evidence from recent decades suggests that high dietary salt consumption is an important determinant of rising blood pressure incidence and the associated risks.

The Government of the Republic of Moldova is committed to reducing salt intake nationwide to less than 8 g per day by 2020 (a 30% reduction). This target is envisaged under the national programme on food and nutrition for 2014–2020, and in the national action plan for 2016–2020 on the implementation of the national strategy for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases.

During the launch event of the dietary salt intake survey on 13 November 2018 in Chisinau, Minister of Health, Labour and Social Protection Silvia Radu stressed, “Achieving this target would only be possible by implementing a comprehensive and multisectoral approach that includes but is not limited to the reformulation of food products, labelling, school food policies and public awareness campaigns.”

“What gets measured gets done,” underlined João Breda, Head of the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases and a.i. Programme Manager of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at WHO/Europe. “Now, the Republic of Moldova has a good opportunity to show leadership in how a small country can reduce salt intake. Salt reformulation is very important and we need to work with other sectors from here, engaging in dialogue and changing legislation as well. WHO can provide further technical support to the Republic of Moldova.”

About the dietary salt intake survey

The dietary salt intake survey in the Republic of Moldova aimed to establish a baseline for the current average consumption of salt (sodium), potassium and iodine through 24-hour urinary excretion testing among a random sample of the adult population (aged 18–69 years). It also set out to assess the knowledge, attitudes, practices and behaviours related to dietary salt to enable more efficient planning and the implementation of an effective salt-reduction strategy in the Republic of Moldova.

The population-based survey was carried out in 2016 in 3 stages: a questionnaire survey, physical measurements and 24-hour urine collections. To ensure that the sample group for the survey was nationally representative, it was selected using a stratified probabilistic method in 3 stages from the master sample used by the National Bureau of Statistics. From a total of 1950 individuals selected from the sampling frame, 1307 (67%) provided suitable data for inclusion. The final sample included 858 participants.

The study was conducted with the financial support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation as part of the project “Support to strengthening governance and policy dialogue in health sector – 2nd phase”.