Testing for levels of sodium and iodine via urine samples in children across 4 primary schools has been completed
200 students were tested
The Ministry of Health, in collaboration with Michael Zimmerman, Professor at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, have completed several rounds of testing for levels of sodium and iodine through the collection of urine samples in children across 4 primary schools: Alpha Junior School, St George Anglican Junior and Senior School, St Andrew RC school and Telescope Primary School.
200 students, ages 6 through 12 were evaluated before providing samples of urine to be tested for concentration of sodium versus levels of iodine. This information will then be presented to the Ministry of Health so that intervention can take place to help families reduce their level of sodium intake.
Professor Zimmerman said the testing already has produced some valuable information that can guide policymakers on this health issue. “We collected urine samples for levels of sodium and then we conduct a series of 5 questions, which is called the targeted 24-hour recall where the children are asked how many times in the last day they consumed high salted foods. Using that information will allow the ministry of health to know where the students are obtaining their snacks from, in order to know what interventions need to be made.”
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) adults, salt intake should not exceed 5 grams of salt per day, but studies have shown that most people consume on average 9-12 grams per day, twice the maximum level of intake.
Zimmerman said this reduction in sodium through heavy salt intake, would reduce the number of cases of hypotension and heart diseases. “Most countries salt intake are around 8 to 10 grams and when you eat that much salt you increase your risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease, so what the WHO is recommending is that we reduce our intake to basically half of our normal intake of salt which in turn will like to reduce the number of cases of death associated with chronic non-communicable diseases.”
He said it is important to note that sodium is important for routine body functions such as blood volume, fluid balance and nerve and muscle function, a high concentration of can leads to high blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and coronary heart attack. Whereas the lack of iodine can lead to lead to enlargement of the thyroid among other serious complications.
So far, the university team was able to complete testing in Jamaica, St Kitts & Nevis, Antigua, St Vincent and Grenada. The team will next visit St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize and Barbados. Results from the study are expected to be presented to the Ministry of Health in the next 2-3 months.