ATLANTA – According to a new study titled “Sodium Intake in Adults — United States, 2005-2006,” published June 24 in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.'s) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, less than 10% of U.S. adults limit their daily sodium intake to recommended levels. Most sodium in the American diet comes from processed grains in foods such as pizza and cookies, and meats, including poultry and luncheon meats, the study claims.

U.S. adults consume an average of 3,466 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day, more than twice the current recommended limit for most Americans, the study reveals. Grains provide 36.9% of this total, followed by dishes containing meat, poultry, and fish (27.9%). Both categories combined account for almost two-thirds of the daily sodium intake for Americans.

It is estimated that 77% of dietary sodium comes from processed and restaurant foods. Many of these foods such as breads and cookies may not even taste salty.

“Sodium has become so pervasive in our food supply that it’s difficult for the vast majority of Americans to stay within recommended limits,” said Janelle Peralez Gunn, public health analyst with C.D.C.’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention and lead author of the study. “Public health professionals, together with food manufacturers, retailers and health-care providers, must take action now to help support people's efforts to reduce their sodium consumption.”

People should consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends. Specific groups, including persons with high blood pressure, all middle-aged and older adults and all blacks, should limit intake to 1,500 mg per day. These specific groups comprise nearly 70% of the U.S. adult population. This study found that only 9.6% of all participants met their applicable dietary recommendation, including 5.5% of the group limited to 1,500 mg per day and 18.8% of the 2,300 mg per day group.

The report examined data for 2005–2006 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (N.H.A.N.E.S.), an ongoing study that explores the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the U.S. Researchers used information from 24-hour dietary recall and the U.S.D.A. National Nutrient Database to estimate the daily sodium intake and sources of sodium intake for U.S. adults.

These findings add to a growing body of observational research studies on Americans' excessive sodium consumption, C.D.C. said. Over-consumption of sodium can have negative health effects, including increasing average levels of blood pressure. Blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the first- and third-leading causes of death among adults in the U.S.

One in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, and an estimated 90% of U.S. adults will develop the disease in their lifetime.