This week is salt awareness week. It’s one of my personal weakness. It’s also a silent killer. Last year I worked with a group of fabulous researchers led by Dr. Oyebode to make sense of the impact of salt in Africa, Nigeria in particular. The love for salt in the region is a silent epidemic. Not only do most people add salt to their meal preparations, myself included, we also add bouillon cubes known as Maggi. In fact, I am certain that most Nigerian households would agree that a food isn’t delicious until you add more than one of these cubes to your meal preparation. I have tried to prepare meals myself with and without them. My family knew the difference.
One study in Sierra Leone, led by one of Dr. Oyebode’s students Tahir Bockarie noted that 91% added salt in cooking, another 40% added salt at the table, while 30% ate salty snacks. Our own pilot study highlights the same with most Nigerian men for example consuming 3.31grams of sodium per day. But how do we begin to curb this love for salt including our obsessions with cooking with these bouillon cubes. Enter hypertension. One in three Nigerian adults is hypertensive. While the World Health Organization recommends a daily sodium intake of 2 grams, Nigerians consume up to 5 times this amount at 10 grams. I had this grand idea with Dr. Oyebode that a community-driven intervention led by and for communities themselves may make a difference. We haven’t tested it out yet but we are hopeful. Hopeful that when like minds come together, we can curb our love for salt. Hopeful that when we create a sustainable platform for research with communities themselves leading the way, even our love for bouillon cubes such as Maggi can be reduced. Hopefully that with insights from the community, not only would we achieve a salt-free lifestyle, but a no high blood pressure lifestyle too. We have miles to go to test our ideas out but with Dr. Oyebode as my partner, we are well positioned to work to reduce excess salt intake globally and through a sustainable program of research. Until then and for this salt awareness week, keep eating less salt. It can literally save your life.