Sapiens Health Foundation and IIT Madras conduct workshop on low-salt diet

The collaborative effort aims to reduce high salt consumption and combat non-communicable diseases

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New Delhi: Sapiens Health Foundation and the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) Department of Medical Sciences and Technology hosted a workshop on low-salt diets aimed at building capacity among medical professionals.
The event, held on 30th June 2024, was a collaborative effort involving the Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, the Government of Tamil Nadu, and Resolve to Save Lives (RTSL), a New York-based NGO.
The workshop focused on reducing high salt consumption and promoting low-salt substitutes, addressing the significant health risks associated with excessive salt intake. Dr. Rajan Ravichandran, Chairman of Sapiens Health Foundation and Professor of Practice at IIT Madras, emphasized the importance of labelling and statutory guidelines on salt content in packaged foods. He highlighted that most of the salt consumed is from hidden sources rather than direct consumption.
Dr. T.S. Selva Vinayagam, Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Government of Tamil Nadu, stated, “We all know that non-communicable diseases account for nearly 65% of the fatalities/ mortalities. To address this epidemic, we need to address the ‘risk factors’ which are modifiable such as salt, sugar and related items. Unless we address these factors, it would not be sustainable for any country to manage the complications due to NCD. Reducing salt intake is among the most cost-effective strategy even though it might seem as a simple thing. A global document and strategy that states if you are able to reduce current salt consumption by 30%, there will be a reduction of at least 25% prevalence in hypertension.”
Dr T.S. Selva Vinayagam added, “This is no more a medical challenge but a ‘commercial determinant’. The consumption of processed food is increasing due to lifestyle modifications and an instant attraction to fast foods leading to over consumption that results in complications like mortalities. The industry is searching for a new customer through children. We need to break this down at different levels to bring down the NCD Problem. We have more ultra-high-density products that are available resulting in children getting addicted due to the easy availability and convenience. This we need to address through people like you (Doctors).”
Further, Dr T.S. Selva Vinayagam said, “The current data says that almost 70-80% of the salt which we consume is from hidden sources and not direct consumption. This is due to increased ease of ordering food to home and eating out. There should be a certain level of action that we as individuals can do and also certain actions which we need to do at a population-level or community level that Governments can take. People should be more discerning in what they eat. Whatever public interventions were taken up for tackling tobacco should be taken up for salt also as this is a bigger challenge. Every US$ 1 spent on intervention will give not less than $12 in returns. The returns are manifold such as preventing mortality, complications and prolonging the healthy years.”
Prof. V. Kamakoti, Director of IIT Madras, remarked, “Health is wealth. Public awareness about good practices in food preparation and consumption is a must. I immensely commend Sapiens Health Foundation and Department of Medical Sciences and Technology for this effort.”
The workshop included the release of a manual on salt guidelines for physicians and the distribution of colorful posters promoting salt reduction. Dr. Amit Shah, Director of RTSL India, highlighted the global movement for reduced salt intake and appealed to the medical fraternity to prioritize salt reduction when treating patients.
Medical experts from various parts of the country shared their insights on the relationship between salt intake and health issues such as blood vessels, heart, kidney, and bone health. The discussion also focused on the availability of cost-effective low-salt substitutes and the importance of creating awareness among the population. The need for food industries to reformulate low-sodium products and for governmental policies on taxation and food labeling for salt were key subjects.
R. Sundar, Trustee of Sapiens Health Foundation concluded the workshop. He highlighted the workshop’s uniqueness as a global program and its potential impact on the nation’s health. Sundar also announced plans to hold similar workshops in Mumbai and Delhi, further bolstering the fight against high salt consumption.