Hospital menus appear to go heavy on the salt, researchers found.
Among a sample of standard hospital menus in which patients did not pick their own meal choices, 100% exceeded the adequate daily intake of 1,500 mg of sodium, and 86% surpassed the maximum recommended levels of 2,300 mg, JoAnne Arcand, PhD, RD, of the University of Toronto, and colleagues reported in a letter online in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
“Our findings highlight the need for sodium-focused food procurement and menu-planning policies to lower sodium levels in hospital patient menus,” they wrote.
Currently, the Institute of Medicine recommends 2,300 mg a day for healthy patients but 1,500 mg a day for certain higher risk groups. But much of the focus on salt reduction has been on consumer food services, rather than food served to hospital patients.
So to assess the amount of sodium in hospital menus, the researchers looked at the contents of several types of menus from three acute care hospitals in Ontario:
84 menus in which patients don’t select their own items
633 regular menus in which patients can pick their own food
628 menus for diabetics picking their own food
630 patient-selection menus for those on 3,000-mg sodium daily diets
343 patient-selection menus for those on 2,000-mg sodium a day
They found that the mean sodium level in the standard menus in which patients don’t choose their own meals was 2,896 mg.
All of these menus exceeded the acceptable intake levels of 1,500 mg and 86% exceeded upper-level limit of 2,300 mg, the researchers reported.
When patients could choose their own items, 97% of the menus exceeded acceptable intake and 79% exceeded the upper-level limits, they found.
For diabetics who didn’t choose their own items, the mean sodium level for their menu was 3,406 mg, and all of these menus exceeded both the acceptable and upper limits of sodium intake.
Sodium levels were similar when diabetics chose their own food, and 99% exceeded the 1,500 mg limit while 95% exceeded the 2,300 mg level.
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