Sodium Intake in Poverty Stricken Areas in the Philippines

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The Sodium Intake of people in poverty stricken areas in the Philippines is causing major problems to them. According to the Philippines Statistics Authority (2019), the percentage of Filipinos who live below the poverty line is 21% or almost 1 in every 5 people are poor. With the situation of being below the poverty line, some families are considered to be food poor. The Social Weather Station, a social research institution in the Philippines, conducted a survey in which 36% of a population in Metro Manila, “balanced luzon”, Visayas, and Mindanao that live below the poverty line, consider themselves to be food poor. But what is the meaning of being food poor. Food poor or food poverty is the lack of the ability of being able to afford food that makes up a healthy diet; It is the quality of the food that people eat, meaning the nutrition and nourishment of the food, and the quantity of the food or being able to satisfy hunger. People who are affected by food poverty, go to extreme measures of consuming a diet of salty foods or food with high sodium composition. Some examples of these foods are instant noodles, “tuyo”, soy sauce, vinegar, asin, and “patis”. According to Regional WHO director, Dr. Takeshi Kasai (2019), a lot of these salty foods are much more affordable than nutritious food. There is a widespread of these salty or unhealthy foods being sold in poor places, he added. Many of these people make the consumption of these salty foods a habit due to their living conditions.

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How does their consumption of salty foods or intake of sodium cause major health problems. “The healthy or the allowable amount of sodium is only about 200 mg a day to maintain physiological functions (around 0.23-0.46 g sodium/day or 0.58 to 1.17 g/day salt). 1 teaspoon of salt contains about 2-5 grams (some literature would say 2g while others would say 5 g) of sodium. High sodium consumption can be defined as consuming more than two grams of sodium per day, which is equivalent to 5 grams or 1 teaspoon of salt consumption per day. That would tell us that practically, our consumption goes beyond what our body needs”, stated by Ma. Lorena Lorenzo, MD (2019). In the situation of people who are experiencing food poverty and are eating cheap yet salty foods like instant noodles, “tuyo”, soy sauce, vinegar, asin, “patis, and canned food, the regular consumption of these foods can exceed the amount of the healthy amount of sodium intake.This is because these foods contain huge amounts of sodium in their compositions.

Asking Ma. Lorena Lorenzo, MD about the general situation of sodium consumption of the poor in the Philippines, she said that, “In many Asian countries, the Philippines included, mean sodium intakes are >4.6 g/day (>11.7 g/day salt). It means to say that we are consuming a lot more than our body’s physiological needs”. (2019). Exceeding the amount of the recommended sodium intake can cause major illnesses. When someone exceeds the recommended sodium intake for a prolonged duration, the kidney will have trouble in keeping with excess sodium in the body. The body will then hold onto water in order to dilute the sodium. This will increase the volume of blood in the bloodstream, which will result in more work for the heart and more pressure in blood vessels. Over time, this excess process can lead to high-blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure. High sodium intake can also lead to the reduction of bone density due to calcium excretion, this is also known as osteoporosis. There is also a link of an increase in stomach and nasopharyngeal cancer with higher sodium intake.

The World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research concludes that salt, as well as salted and salty foods, are a “probable cause of stomach cancer”. (2019). These illnesses can cause a big problem in livelihood and production of families, due to the fact that these illnesses can have a huge impact on physical performance and can also be fatal. For example is stroke, often caused by hypertension due to dietary risks, is the second leading cause of death in the Philippines. Stroke can be fatal when a severe amount of damage is done to the brain, this can cause brain swelling. If stroke does not kill the patient, other effects may still occur. Some of these effects are sensory impairment, paralysis, speech impairment, a loss in cognitive ability, organ problems, and a problem with emotional control. Even though most strokes are not fatal, most poor people still die due to it because of the lack of medical attention. Most health care in the Philippines is private and the cost is too much for people in underprivileged areas.

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