Jennifer Erickson ’2013

Ad Libitum Salt Use Behaviors in College-aged Students

High sodium intake results in elevated blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and kidney disease. About 7 million deaths were credited to elevated blood pressure around the world in 2000*. Sodium reduction has the potential to prevent deaths and lower health care costs.  The current RDA for sodium is 1500mg. A study conducted at CSB/SJU in 2012 established that the average sodium intake for CSB/SJU students was approximately 3500 mg per student per day.  Making salt less accessible during the mealtime will decrease the amount of salt used per person.

 Purpose: To understand the effects of accessibility on salt consumption at campus dining facilities and investigate a potential difference in salt consumption at a primarily male facility verses a primarily female facility.  A secondary purpose for this study is to understand student salting behaviors and perceptions.

Methods: The research study was approved by IRB.  A three-day control period was conducted at the dining facilities at both male and female campuses during the dinner meal period to determine typical salt use; followed by a three-day experimental period conducted at both facilities, during which saltshakers were relocated to the condiment station.  Saltshakers were numbered and weighed before and after the meal period.  Head counts were obtained through dining services to calculate salt use per person. Signs were placed in napkin holders to inform diners of the relocation of the saltshakers during the experimental period.  Statistical analysis was conducted using unpaired t-tests.

Online survey sent to CSB/SJU students to investigate salting habits and awareness.  Statistical analysis was conducted using two proportion z-tests. 

Results: Average salt use decreased significantly by 80% when saltshakers were relocated to the condiment station.  Salt use between men and women was not statistically different.  Only 21% of CSB/SJU students reported regularly using the saltshaker.  Eighty-three percent of students surveyed mistakenly believe their sodium consumption is at or slightly above the RDA.  

Conclusions: Students are aware that most dietary sodium comes from processed foods and understand the implications of a high sodium diet; but, only 11% of students recognize that they consume much more than the RDA.  Relocating the saltshaker away from the table may be helpful for those who frequently use the saltshaker; however, to achieve recommended levels of sodium, students need to dramatically reduce the amount of convenience and processed foods in their daily diets.

* Frisoli, T.M., Schmieder, R.E., Grodzicki, T., Messerli, F.H. (2012). Salt and hypertension: Is salt dietary reduction worth the effort? The American Journal of Medicine, 125, 433-439. Doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2011.10.023. 

 Jennifer Erickson presented her research at the Minnesota Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics April 25, 2013.

To view Poster, click on link below:
Ad Libitum Salt Use Behaviors in College-aged Students

Research Advisor: Amy Olson, PhD, RDN, LD