Sunday, April 10, 2011

iPhone App for Checking Sodium Levels in What You Eat

The iPhone has some interesting techno do-dads that lets it measure everything from seismic activity, sound levels, g-force, your heart rate, and your position on the planet.  Actually there are few smart phones that will do all these things.

So what kind of super scanner thingy has been channeled by this latest app to reveal how much sodium is in the food you eat? Meh.. It's just a database. Oh, it does use the accelerometer to emulate a salt shaker so you discover how much shaking it takes to jack up your sodium intake (40mg of sodium per shake).

While that's a whole bunch of fun and somewhat of a wrist workout, the real power of the app is in the list of over 2000 foods from "Canada's most popular takeout chains", according to the sodium101.ca website, launch site of the app.  Besides, we get most of our sodium intake from what's already in processed foods and restaurant foods, not the salt shaker (77% from commercially prepared foods (2)).

The icon on the iPhone app is a red circle with the words sick of it! in the centre. Hmm.. I guess you can see some of the other nerdy apps I have on my phone too..


I found a popular national steak house restaurant listed and chose the following:

  • Prime rib 10oz
  • Caesar salad
  • Garlic cheese bread

The total sodium? 5362 mg.  The amount is displayed in a thermometer like scale, complete with a glowing red boarder signalling you that you have achieved sodium purgatory.


The thermometer graphic has a couple lines depicting 1500 mg, the amount of sodium the average adult needs in a day, and 2300 mg, the upper tolerable limit. No, you don't barf if you go above 2300 mg, that's not what tolerable means here.  More negative health effects are more likely when we consume more than 2300 mg of sodium per day.  The average Canadian consumes about 3400 mg of sodium per day (1).

When you choose a really high sodium food (over 1000 mg) you get an ascending whistle noise plus a pop up window asking; "Do you really want to eat this?"


The sodium101.ca website says "the rate of stroke and heart disease could drop by 30% in Canada" if "most of us consumed no more than 1500 mg of sodium per day."

Recent research published in the Journal of Nutrition (3) shows that high sodium intake alters carotid artery structure.. makes arteries more stiff.  

In 2009 Dr. David Kessler published the book The End Of Overeating, in which he describes his research that shows a combination of fat, salt, and sugar causes a "hyper-palatable" response where food tastes super rewarding, so much so it's beyond the brains normal capacity to properly process this heightened reward and so we have a big time desire to keep eating the high fat, high salt, high sugar food.  Check out this article in the New York Times.

Personally I really enjoy eating out, but after seeing how much sodium and total calories there are in so many restaurant meals I've almost completely stopped going to restaurants with the exception of a few health food places.  Some restaurants are responding to the growing, but small, consumer demand for healthier meals.  For me this change can't come fast enough.


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