60-Second Health

U.S. Fast Food Contains More Salt

Fast food chains say it's hard to hold the salt, but outlets in other countries are already cutting back on sodium. Katherine Harmon reports

Whether you're in London or Lubbock, a Big Mac is a Big Mac, right? Well, not exactly. Fast food chains serve up a very different amount of salt in their foods depending on where they're operating. 

Researchers studied nutrition information from McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Domino's, Pizza Hut and Subway in six different countries. They found that restaurants in the U.S. served saltier burgers, subs, pizza and chicken nuggets than those same outlets in the U.K.

And the differences were more than a dash. A six-piece chicken nugget in Manchester, New Hampshire, contains 1.5 grams of salt, whereas in Manchester, England, it has just 0.6 grams—less than half. The findings are in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. [Elizabeth Dunford et al, "The variability of reported salt levels in fast foods across six countries: opportunities for salt reduction"]

The researchers also found that many of these meals contain more salt than doctors recommend getting in an entire day. Even salads were not entirely safe, with some containing seven grams of salt.

So, if you can't travel to the U.K. for your drive-thru lunch, cut the salt by cutting your portions—or skipping the fast food altogether.

—Katherine Harmon

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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