Will Potato Chips Become Extinct in Europe?

Craving something greasy from the vending machine? If one World Health Organization (WHO) adviser has his way, you won’t be able to get your hands on those salty snacks too much longer—at least in Europe. 

Francesco Cappuccio, M.D., professor of Cardiovascular Medicine & Epidemiology at the University of Warwick Medical School has spent 30 years researching the diets of populations around the world and is now calling for the European government to ban the sale of  ‘unhealthy, cheap, salty junk food.’ (Heads up: That salt can also be contributing to your junk food hangover!)

His latest study, published in BMJ Open, examined the sodium levels of nearly 4,000 men and women throughout Italy and found those from lower socio-economic backgrounds (who are therefore more likely to buy cheap, processed foods loaded with health-harming chemicals like sodium) had significantly higher salt intake than those with higher incomes. Cappuccio previously found similar results around Britain, and believes this study further demonstrates that social inequalities in salt intake are a ‘Europe-wide problem.’

Cappuccio believes this directly contributes to the higher rate of disability and the lower life expectancy seen in these groups, since previous research has shown that (besides contributing to high blood pressure) high sodium intake causes an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, and heart failure, and that reducing sodium lowers cardiovascular disease and death rates long term.

The current WHO guidelines recommend that the average adult consume less than 2,000mg of sodium a day, but a recent study found that average sodium intake worldwide was nearly 4,000mg a day. The good news is, researchers found that lowering sodium intake to the recommended levels would lead to 1.65 million fewer deaths per year worldwide.

“The government can do something about this by discouraging manufacturers from producing cheap, salty food and distributors from selling them. These are the types of foods consumed by those on lower incomes because they are inexpensive but ultimately they have a detrimental effect on your health,” he said in the press release.

And while he may only be calling action for Europe right now, excess salt intake is clearly a problem here in America too. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports have found that the majority of the U.S. population consumes excess sodium, which can lead to hypertension, the primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease—the leading cause of U.S. deaths.

So if this actually goes into effect there, who knows for us! To get your fix without the negative health effects, try these 15 Smart, Healthy Alternatives to Junk Food.

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