x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Hospital takes salt off the menu

A hospital is introducing spices and herbal mixes as an alternative to salt in patients' and staff meals.

ABU DHABI // Sheikh Khalifa Medical City is introducing spices and herbal mixes as alternatives to salt in patients' meals and its canteen, in an attack on high-sodium diets. The experiment follows World Hypertension Day on May 17. The UAE ranks among the high-income countries where cardiovascular illness is a leading killer and high sodium a significant factor in high blood pressure, according to the World Health Organisation. Ellen Edwards, the head of clinical dietetics and the chief clinical dietician at SKMC, said a new "spices blend" and a "herbs mix" were part of efforts to encourage diners to reduce their sodium intake. "To anyone requiring sodium control, we're saying, 'We'd like you to try this'," she said. SKMC saw a daily average of 96 patients requiring sodium control. In addition, she said, the hospital had more than 300 dialysis outpatients, who must follow salt restrictions for the rest of their lives. "So we decided to ... review five or six mixes of spice substitutes and we had trials on all of them, then voted on which two were the best to bring here." Reducing sodium intake can help prevent hypertension and heart disease. However, the hot climate means a moderate amount of sodium is needed, in addition to fluids, to prevent fatigue in the summer. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention's recommended daily sodium intake for most adults is 1,500mg, though dieticians believe that is too low to achieve. "It probably wouldn't taste very good," Ms Edwards said. Kelly Lynch, a clinical dietician at City Hospital in Dubai, called the UAE "a definite up-and-coming fast-food nation" that needed to watch its sodium intake. "Along with other risk factors, there's a combination of being overweight and eating a high-fat and high-salt diet," she said. mkwong@thenational.ae