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U.S. Fast Foods are Saltiest

Sodium levels are higher in U.S. fast food chains than in those of other countries.

If you’re watching your sodium intake, you are better off leaving the United States. A new study found that American fast food chains are saltier than the other countries with the same menu items. To see which country might win the title of salt king, researchers compared over 2,000 products for six chain restaurants: Burger King, Domino's Pizza, KFC, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, and Subway. Of the six countries looked at—the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, France and New Zealand—the U.S. came out on top, especially for breakfast items, chicken products and pizza. For the most part, sodium content varied only by 20 percent to 30 percent across the countries. Some products in the U.S., however, stood out. McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets contained 2.5 times more sodium in the U.S. than in the U.K. Also, the American version of the Subway club sandwich was two times saltier than the French one. Excess sodium in the diet can contribute to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 percent of Americans eat too much sodium. The bulk of that comes from restaurants and processed foods. Some fast food items were the worst offenders. Pizza, burgers, chicken products, and salads with creamy dressings all exceeded the recommended daily limit for sodium—2,300 milligrams per day. Even if you are strict about salt in your diet at home, one fast food meal could easily put you over. The U.K. has voluntary limits for sodium in processed foods. Fast food chains in that country have already started adjusting the food to meet those standards, with consumers still buying the less salty products. Similar changes in the U.S. would have a large impact on the health of the country, although it would require strong commitment by fast food restaurants.

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