WHO promotes ‘Salt Awareness Week’: 5g of salt a day is OK

Marje Pelayo   •   March 6, 2019   •   4716

A cook sprinkles salt on fries at a cafe in the Frietmuseum in Bruges September 27, 2011. REUTERS/Thierry Roge

Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2016 agreed to reduce by 30% the global population’s intake of salt (sodium) by 2025.

In observance of the ‘Salt Awareness Week’ from March 4 to 10, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) joins the international community in efforts to campaign salt-intake reduction in view of the risks that high salt intake may cause to human health.

WHO recommends just under a teaspoon or less than 5 grams of salt intake a day for adults while children are recommended to have less or adjusted amount based on their energy requirements.

The WHO recommends iodized or “fortified” with iodine, “essential for healthy brain development in the fetus and young child and optimizing people’s mental function in general”.

However, in many countries, salt comes in different, ‘unrecognizable’ forms.

According to a UK-based expert group World Action on Salt and Health (WASH), “salty sauces such as soy sauce are big contributors of salt to diets worldwide”.

Packaged food or ready meals and food served in restaurants, food chains and cafeterias are actually loaded with salt.

Health and wellness experts say that though salt is an essential part of our diet, it should come in small amounts as eating too much salt can have huge health impacts.

High sodium intake raises blood pressure that leads to stroke and heart diseases, the two biggest causes of death and disability worldwide, according to WHO.

In the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) reported that more than 170,000 individuals die each year from heart diseases, specifically hypertension.

A study from the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health added that too much salt intake may develop urinary tract infection (UTI); kidney stones; bone mineral loss in women; and hypercalciuria or increased calcium in the urine which may lead renal failure; and other disabilities.

PH’s Internet-based ‘Salt Calculator’

In 2015, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute – Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) together with Unilever Philippines launched an Internet-based tool that measures one’s salt intake.

The web-based tool presents main food sources of salt in Filipino diets and reveals an individual’s salt intake based on the result of the Sodium Intake Level Test provided.

The ‘salt calculator’ can be accessed through FNRI-DOST’s website www.i.fnri.dost.gov.ph.

Read product labels for salt content: Green is healthy

In Northern Ireland, the country’s Public Health Agency (PHA) issued high salt intake warning to remind the public of the dangers of eating too much salt.

Caroline Bloomfield, health and social well being improvement senior manager at PHA noted the importance of tasting the food first to know if adding salt is necessary than automatically adding salt to the food.

The agency also advises consumers to read product labels before buying any ready-to-eat food items.

These labels have indicators of the nutritional value a portion of food accounts for and will guide consumers if the product has high, medium or low amount of salt.

Red means high; amber means medium; and green means low which imply that the more greens you buy, the healthier are your choices.

Meanwhile, there are products that do not use the color codes but the amount of salt is indicated by grams.

A product is high in salt if it contains more than 1.5g of salt per 100g.

The product has medium amount if the salt content is between 0.3g and 1.5g while 0.3g of salt or less per 100g is considered low.

The WHO recommends discipline in eating and watch the salt content in food that we eat.

To date, WHO-member states are bound to adhere with the “Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health” which calls on governments to take action to support healthy diets and physical activity at local, regional and global level. – Marje Pelayo

What is Leptospirosis and how can you avoid it?

Robie de Guzman   •   August 30, 2019

The risk of getting water-borne illnesses, like leptospirosis, is often much greater during the rainy season.

Health experts said this is because floodwaters and other extreme weather-related events cause rodents and other wild and domesticated species to move into the city.

In the Philippines, cases of leptospirosis have been spiking in the recent weeks due to rains and heavy flooding.

Data from the Department of Health (DOH) showed that from January 1 to August 3 this year, more than 900 cases of leptospirosis were recorded, 300 of which are from Metro Manila. Out of these cases, 106 fatalities were reported.

READ: Leptospirosis cases now over 900

According to the World Health Organization, leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects both humans and animals. It is an infection in both wild and domesticated animals but rodents are implicated most often in human cases.

Human infection can occur through “direct contact with the urine of infected animals or with a urine-contaminated environment such as surface water, soil and plants.”

The most common route of infection is exposure to water contaminated by urine, such as floodwaters, and through skin abrasions and the mucus of the nose, mouth and eyes.

How leptospirosis affects your body?

Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Cybele Abad, in an interview with UNTV Digital program Lifesaver, said that when leptospirosis bacteria enter the body, it spreads through blood and infects the cells.

“Kapag halimbawa after ng isang bagyo tapos lumusong sa baha tapos may bukas na sugat sa paa, usually pwedeng makapasok yung Leptospirosis (bacteria) sa open wound sa paa… Tapos dala ng dugo, iikot sa buong katawan yung leptospiros at magkakaroon ng mga sintomas ng leptospirosis,” Abad said.

Watch this online episode of Lifesaver for more information on how leptospirosis affects your body.

Signs and Symptoms

The time between a person’s exposure to a contaminated source and becoming sick is two to four days.

In the early stages of the disease, symptoms include high fever, severe headache, muscle pain, chills, redness of the eyes, abdominal pain, jaundice, haemorrhages in the skin and mucous membranes, vomiting, diarrhea, and rash.

But according to Abad, many of leptospirosis’ symptoms can be mistaken for other diseases, so it is important for a person suspected with this infection to seek immediate medical consultation and tests.

“Kapag (tingin) po na may posibilidad na leptospirosis, kailangan dalhin sa ospital para mabantayan yung mga sintomas. Kailangan din pong ma-diagnose ito, usually through some blood test, puwedeng blood culture o kaya may diagnostic test para malaman kung leptospirosis or hindi,” she said.

What to do to prevent infection?

To avoid leptospirosis, health experts advise the public to take up measures, which include:

  • Avoiding swimming or wading in potentially contaminated water or flood water.
  • Use of proper protection like boots and gloves when work requires exposure to contaminated water.
  • Draining of potentially contaminated water when possible.
  • Control rats in the household by using rat traps or rat poison, maintaining cleanliness in the house.

The illness usually lasts for a few days to three weeks or longer and can be treated with antibiotics. But without treatment, recovery may take several months.

The more severe phase of the disease may lead a person to have kidney or liver failure or meningitis.

Lifesaver is a UNTV Digital program that offers basic first aid training essential to anyone who happens to be a bystander to an accident or emergency. It also educates viewers of imperative emergency response lessons and indispensable disaster preparedness tools to be able to save lives in times of calamities.

For more information on dengue, other basic first aid and emergency response tips, visit Lifesaver’s Youtube and Facebook accounts.

Plastic particles in drinking water present ‘low’ risk – WHO

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

Microplastics contained in drinking water pose a “low” risk to human health at current levels, but more research is needed to reassure consumers, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday (August 22).

Studies over the past year on plastic particles detected in tap and bottled water have sparked public concerns, but the limited data appears reassuring the U.N. agency said in its first report on potential health risks associated with ingestion.

Microplastics enter drinking water sources mainly through run-off and wastewater effluent, the WHO said. Evidence shows that microplastics found in some bottled water seem to be at least partly due to the bottling process and/or packaging such as plastic caps, it said.

It added however that the current and available studies on the toxicity of plastic parts are limited, and also have not used standardized methods enabling scientists to have reproducible and comparable metrics, and that more studies are needed to be more conclusive on certain of the issues.

Microplastics pose three threats, a physical one, a chemical and the third is about bacterial colonization.

The majority of plastic particles in water are larger than 150 micrometers in diameter and are excreted from the body, while the vast majority of smaller ones are likely to be excreted too, there still remains concern. WHO technical experts reported that more research needs to be conducted to know more about what is being absorbed, the distribution and their impacts.

The chemical hazard, experts have looked at the concentrations found in marine microplastics and chose a worst-case scenario saying we would ingest the highest possible concentrations. According to WHO, whatever the chemical, the exposure level was a lot safer than any threshold of risks.

Bacterial colonization, health experts say there are so many particles in the environment bacteria might adhere to, that microplastics would make a negligible contribution to any microbioflora that would be released and pose a risk.

For this report, however, despite the flaws, they say they worked with worst-case scenarios and are confident that the risk would remain low should some data change.

The WHO recommended for consumers to keep on consuming tap or bottled water, provided it is correctly treated, and didn’t recommend for any regulations to be put in place. It also called for more studies, investigating the potential cumulative effects of the ingestion of microplastics present in food, air, water.

The biggest overall health threat in water is from microbial pathogens —including from human and livestock waste entering water sources — that cause deadly diarrhoeal disease, especially in poor countries lacking water treatment systems, the WHO said.

Some 2 billion people drink water contaminated with faeces, causing nearly 1 million deaths annually, Gordon said, adding: “That has got to be the focus of regulators around the world.”

Plastic pollution is so widespread in the environment that you may be ingesting five grams a week, the equivalent of eating a credit card, a study commissioned by the environmental charity WWF International said in June.

That study said the largest source of plastic ingestion was drinking water, but another major source was shellfish. (Reuters)

(Production: Marina Depretis, Emilie Delwarde)

Filipinos in Macau advised to observe strict measures vs. Ebola virus

Marje Pelayo   •   August 9, 2019

Congolese officials and the World Health Organization officials wear protective suits as they participate in a training against the Ebola virus near the town of Beni in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, August 11, 2018. REUTERS/Samuel Mambo

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos living and working in Macau as well as those who wish to travel to the south China autonomous region are advised to observe intensified measures by Macau Health authorities against cross-border spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

In a public advisory on Friday (August 9), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) citing the Philippine Consulate General in Macau SAR, announced that the Macau Health Services will be implementing strengthened response measures at its borders and ports for the early patient detection and prevention against the virus.

The DFA said the advisory was in response to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) announcement of a “public health emergency of international interest” for Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

With the strengthened response measures in place, all passport holders from Ebola-stricken regions will subject for questioning and inspection by border crossing health workers.

Travelers from countries and regions affected by the outbreaks will be immediately referred to the Conde de São Januário Hospital Center to undergo evaluation and tests should they show suspicious symptoms of Ebola.

On the other hand, should travelers show no signs of symptoms, Health Services agents will follow the medical condition daily by phone call.

For further concerns, Filipinos in Macau are encouraged to call the Macau Health Services Communicable Disease Hotline at 28 700 800 or coordinate with the Philippines Consulate General’s Office at +853 6698-1900.

Inquiries may also be e-mailed to macau.pcg@dfa.gov.ph.

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