Breaking Bad Nutrition Habits

Breaking Bad Nutrition HabitsBreaking Bad Nutrition Habits

Iranians need to start believing that breaking bad eating habits, which are actually shortening their lives, is very essential, experts say.  

Iranian cuisine, usually high in salt, fat, and sugar, increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and stroke, officials at the ministry of health and medical education warn, Mehr news agency reported.

As salt is the most generously used ingredient in Iranian food, people get accustomed to eating salty food from early childhood, ministry officials say, adding that the resulting wrong nutrition habit is endangering the lives of millions of Iranians, “who even sprinkle salt on cucumber, oranges, and tangerines before eating.”

Excessive intake of sugar and salt has increased the prevalence of non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular ailments, different types of cancer, and asthma in the country, said Rasoul Dinarvand, deputy health minister and chairman of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), adding that the statistics have raised concerns among healthcare authorities.

“Not only are these diseases the main causes of death in our country, their high treatment costs are catastrophic for the government,” he said and suggested that people prevent such ailments by changing their lifestyles and nutrition habits.  He also stressed that it is necessary to pay attention to the number of calories consumed every day to prevent obesity, which is a major risk factor for CVD and stroke.  

 High Intake

Salt intake in Iran is far higher than global standards, reports of the ministry of health indicate.  

Health Minister Hasan Hashemi recently sounded a warning over the overconsumption of salt and sugar, stating that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends between 2-5 grams of salt a day. “However, in Iran the consumption is between 10-15 grams per day, which is 2.5 times higher than the global standards.” Although salt is required for the metabolism of food in the body, people should be careful not to use it in excess. Food processing industries also need to focus attention on healthy, innovative formulas with less amount of salt.

Further, the ministry is following a policy to reduce the amount of sugar consumption by 10 percent every year, said the minister. He noted that between 2008 and 2011, per capita consumption of sugar went up from 21.1 to 23.9 kg, showing a 30% increase, which is also alarming.

The ministry has set a target to reduce the consumption of trans-fatty acids by households from the current 5 percent to below 2 percent annually by 2017, Hashemi said. High oil consumption can cause hardening of arteries (atherosclerosis), CVD, and stroke.  

 Blood Pressure

Deputy minister of health Ali Akbar Sayyari also warned that excess salt in the diet raises blood pressure, adding that about 10 million people between 15 and 64 years have high blood pressure. Statistics show that high blood pressure kills nearly 86,500 people in Iran.

If salt consumption is reduced by 6%, he said, the rate of brain stroke will decrease by 24% and heart stroke by 18%, “preventing 2.5 million deaths annually.”

Majid Haji Faraji, head of the National Nutrition and Food Technology Research Institute (NNFTRI) suggested that herbal flavors can replace salt in food, and urged that “we should not let children get accustomed to eating salt from early childhood.”