BACKGROUND: High sodium intake increases the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. For this reason the World Health Organization recommends a maximum intake of 2 g per day and a 30 % reduction in population sodium intake by 2025. However, in global reviews, data on sodium intake in sub-Saharan Africa have been limited.
METHODS: A systematic review was conducted to identify studies reporting sodium intake in sub-Saharan African populations. Meta-regression analyses were used to test the effect of year of data collection and method of data collection (urinary/dietary), as well as any association between sex, urban/rural status or a country's economic development, and population sodium intake.
RESULTS: We identified 42 papers reporting 67 estimates of adult population sodium intakes and 12 estimates of child population sodium intakes since 1967. Of the 67 adult populations, 54 (81 %) consumed more than 2 g sodium/day, as did four of the 12 (33 %) child populations. Sixty-five adult estimates were included in the meta-regression, which found that urban populations consumed higher amounts of salt than rural populations and that urine collection gave lower estimates of sodium intake than dietary data.
CONCLUSIONS: Sodium intake in much of sub-Saharan Africa is above the World Health Organization's recommended maximum intake and may be set to increase as the continent undergoes considerable urbanization. Few identified studies used stringent measurement criteria or representative population samples. High quality studies will be required to identify where and with whom to intervene, in order to meet the World Health Organization's target of a 30 % reduction in population sodium intake and to demonstrate progress towards this target.