Apparently hospital cafeterias take dietary recommendations with a grain of salt. A survey of hospital food in Canada found that 100 percent of the meals exceeded the recommended daily allowance for sodium.
The researchers were looking at sodium content because it's one mineral in food that can have a negative effect on patient health, namely patients with heart conditions.
The study found that when patients are allowed to choose their own menu items, the meals almost invariably contained more than the recommended maximum daily salt intake. But more importantly, even when the menus were pre-selected for patients, the meals still exceeded the daily recomended allowances a majority of the time.
Only menus that were specifically designed to be "salt restricted" fell within the approved limits; even patients whose diets were supposed to be capped at 2,000 milligrams of sodium per day consumed more than that amount most of the time.
Diets high in sodium have traditionally been linked to cardiovascular problems. Salt has long been understood to raise blood pressure, and reducing salt in the diet has shown a clear link to a decrease in cardiovascular disease and death rates over the long term.
But more recently, research has linked high-salt diets to other conditions as well. The World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research have concluded that salty foods and a high-salt diet are a probable cause of stomach cancer. And, because salt leaches calcium from the body, other studies have linked a high-salt diet with post-menopausal osteoporosis.
The researchers postulate that the excess salt in the cafeteria food is because hospitals are "increasingly serving prepared foods rather than preparing foods from unprocessed ingredients." And they believe that this trend is particularly alarming, because hospitalized patients are "nutritionally vulnerable."
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