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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2015

Dietary sodium and iodine in remote Indigenous Australian communities: will salt-reduction strategies increase risk of iodine deficiency? A cross-sectional analysis and simulation study

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2015
Emma McMahon, Jacqui Webster, Kerin O’Dea, Julie Brimblecombe
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​s12889-015-2686-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Competing interests

JW is Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre on Population Salt Reduction.

Authors’ contributions

EM designed the analysis, analysed data and drafted the manuscript. JB conceived and was principal investigator of the SHOP@RIC study, and assisted with design of the analysis, interpretation of the data and drafting the manuscript. JW and KO provided input into interpretation of data and drafting the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.



Excess salt intake is a global issue. Effective salt-reduction strategies are needed, however, as salt is a vehicle for iodine fortification, these strategies may also reduce iodine intake. This study examines the case of the remote Indigenous Australian population; we employed an innovative, objective method to assess sodium and iodine intakes against requirements and modelled the potential effects of salt-reduction strategies on estimated sodium and iodine intakes.


Store-sales data were collected from 20 remote Indigenous community stores in 2012–14 representing the main source of food for 2 years for ~8300 individuals. Estimated average sodium and iodine intakes were compared against recommendations (nutrient reference values weighted to age and gender distribution). Linear programming was employed to simulate potential effects of salt-reduction strategies on estimated sodium and iodine intakes.


Estimated average sodium intake was 2770 (range within communities 2410–3450) mg/day, far exceeding the population-weighted upper limit (2060 mg/day). Discretionary (added) salt, bread and processed meat were the biggest contributors providing 46 % of all sodium. Estimated average iodine intake was within recommendations at 206 (186–246) μg/day. The following scenarios enabled modelling of estimated average salt intake to within recommendations: 1) 67 % reduction in sodium content of bread and discretionary salt intake, 2) 38 % reduction in sodium content of all processed foods, 3) 30 % reduction in sodium content of all processed foods and discretionary salt intake. In all scenarios, simulated average iodine intakes remained within recommendations.


Salt intakes of the remote Indigenous Australian population are far above recommendations, likely contributing to the high prevalence of hypertension and cardiovascular mortality experienced by this population. Salt-reduction strategies could considerably reduce salt intake in this population without increasing risk of iodine deficiency at the population-level. These data add to the global evidence informing salt-reduction strategies and the evidence that these strategies can be synergistically implemented with iodine deficiency elimination programmes.

Trial registration

Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12613000694​718.
Additional file 1: Table S1. Scenarios modelled to reduce salt intake. Table S2. Dietary modelling results. (DOCX 25 kb)
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