Sodium Research Gone Askew

The Lempert Report
September 13, 2018

It's about Chinese takeout and salty foods.

In 2012, researchers at Temple University’s Center for Asian Health in Philadelphia teamed with local community health organizers, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, and the Greater Philadelphia Chinese Restaurant Association to create the Healthy Chinese Take-Out Initiative (HCTI). Gizmodo reports that there’s perhaps no greater culprit than Chinese takeout when it comes to salt laden foods.  

206 Chinese takeout restaurants across low-income areas in Philadelphia participated and the restaurants were given “professionally led, culturally tailored training on healthy low-sodium cooking,” new cooking materials, such as utensils, that would make low-sodium cooking easier, and low-sodium recipes for their meals.

The researchers measured the sodium content of three popular meals from 40 restaurants: General Tso’s Chicken, Shrimp and Broccoli, and Chicken Lo Mein. The Shrimp and Broccoli and Chicken Lo Mein were tested at the experiment’s start, then at six months, two years, and three years after training. The General Tso’s Chicken was only tested at six months, two years, and three years.

The sodium levels of all three meals took a dip over the study period.  While the drops in sodium content were noticeable, the individual meals still contained more than the daily recommended sodium per a single meal promoted by health agencies; some, like the Chicken Lo Mein, had more sodium than we should eat in an entire day.

While the sodium debate and research like this continues, there is no question that today 78 million Americans have high blood pressure – that is one in three adults.