Reducing sodium in Chinese takeout is focus of hypertension initiative
Temple University’s Center for Asian Health (CAH), in partnership with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, the Asian Community Health Coalition and the Greater Philadelphia Chinese Restaurant Association, is spearheading an initiative aimed at reducing salt consumption as a means of preventing hypertension in the city.
The Philadelphia Healthy Chinese Takeout Initiative aims to decrease hypertension-related mortality rates by working with Chinese takeout restaurants in Philadelphia to reduce the amount of sodium in their food by 10 to 15 percent. The initiative will use several approaches, including training chefs to cook menu items in new ways that preserve taste and reduce sodium, often a major ingredient in the sauces used in food preparation and cooking.
Funding for the initiative is provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Get Healthy Philly, part of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. Grace X. Ma, director of the CAH and a professor at the College of Health Professions and Social Work’s Department of Public Health, is principal investigator for the study.
“There are more than 400 Chinese restaurants throughout the city of Philadelphia,” said Ma. “Many are located in communities that have a particularly high incidence rate of hypertension. By targeting these areas in our overall study, we can have a strong impact on at-risk communities.”
To date, 221 restaurants have been recruited to participate. Preliminary results are promising, said Ma.
“Our first cohort shows a 20 percent decrease in sodium content comparing the lab results of pre and post tests six months following the intervention,” she said. “We have three time points for follow-up compliance checks at each participating Chinese takeout restaurant: at three, six and 15 months after the training intervention.”
Excess sodium intake increases the risk of developing high blood pressure, which affects nearly 40 percent of adults and 47 percent of African Americans in Philadelphia. The average American consumes twice the recommended daily amount of sodium, mostly from processed and restaurant foods.
“We are honored to be spearheading a program that can guide people on the path to healthier eating, and healthier living,” said Ma. “By reorienting people to different approaches, we can give them the tools and knowledge to make positive choices about their health.”
— Christine Mora