4364.0.55.008 - Australian Health Survey: Usual Nutrient Intakes, 2011-12  
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Sodium occurs in a number of different forms but is generally consumed as sodium chloride (commonly known as 'salt'). Sodium is found naturally in foods such as milk, cream, eggs, meat and shellfish. Sodium is also added to foods to enhance flavours, to act as a preservative and as part of some food additives. Processed foods, such as snack foods, bacon, and condiments, generally have high levels of sodium added during processing. High intakes of sodium can increase blood pressure, and high blood pressure can increase the risk of developing heart and kidney problems.1

Nearly two in every three people aged two years and over had a usual intake that exceeded the UL for sodium (76% of males and 42% of females). Intakes of sodium were consistently higher for males than females. Males were more likely to exceed the UL than females, a difference that was more pronounced for every age group over nine years. Children were more likely than adults to exceed the UL for sodium, with 91% of males and 74% of females aged 2-18 years compared with 71% of males and 32% of females aged 19 years and over exceeding the UL. This was particularly pronounced amongst children aged 2-8 years with nearly 100% of males and 95% of females exceeding the UL for sodium.

Graph Image for Persons aged 2 years and over - Proportion of population with usual intakes of sodium exceeding upper level

Source(s): Australian Health Survey: Usual Nutrient Intakes, 2011-12

These figures underestimate total sodium intakes, as they are based on sodium naturally present in foods as well as sodium added during processing, but exclude the 'discretionary salt' added by consumers when preparing foods in the home or 'at the table'. Almost two in three (64%)2 of Australians reported that they add salt very often or occasionally either during meal preparation or at the table. For more information, see the Interpretation paragraph of Nutrient Intake in the Users' Guide.


1 National Health and Medical Research Council and New Zealand Ministry of Health, 2006, Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand, <https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/sodium>, last accessed 4/2/2015

2 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014, Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results - Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12, 'Sodium', cat. no. 4364.0.55.007