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Salt content in fast food varies by country, study finds

April 20, 2012|By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times / For Booster Shots
  • A study out this week in the Canadian Medical Assn. Journal shows that the salt levels in certain fast food varied widely from country to country -- even if the foods being compared were the exact same menu items from the same restaurant chain.
A study out this week in the Canadian Medical Assn. Journal shows that the… (Chris Hondros / Getty Images )

A Chicken McNugget in England is not the same as a Chicken McNugget in America -- not in terms of salt content, anyway.

A study out this week in the Canadian Medical Assn. Journal shows that the salt levels in certain fast food varied widely from country to country -- even if the foods being compared were the exact same menu items from the same restaurant chain.

Take the aforementioned McNuggets, courtesy of McDonalds. The nuggets contained 0.6 grams of salt per 100 grams of foodstuff in Britain, but more than double that -- 1.6 grams of salt -- in the United States. (Canada was not much better, for the record: Their nuggets had 1.5 grams of sodium per 100 grams.)

The same went for a wide range of foods -- Burger King Double Whoppers, Kentucky Fried Chicken's Zinger Burger, Domino's and Pizza Hut's Hawaiian pizzas. The study found variation in salt content between restaurants of the same chain in several countries, including France and much of the English-speaking world: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Britain and the United States.

Take Subway's Club sandwich: 1.2 grams per 100 in the U.S. and New Zealand, 0.9 grams in Australia and 0.5 in France, those show-offs.

Reducing salt levels is a very important goal for public health, the international team of researchers points out, because excess salt can cause increases in blood pressure -- which among other things can lead to coronary heart disease, stroke and kidney failure, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

The thing is, many companies say they've been trying their gosh-darn best to reduce sodium levels in food ... but it's just so hard!

But, as the study's authors write, "Decreasing salt in fast foods would appear to be technically feasible."

Translation: Some of them could probably be trying just a little bit harder.

Follow me on Twitter @aminawrite.

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