Background and aim: Excess sodium intake is a recognised causal factor of hypertension and its cardiovascular complications; there is however a lack of practical instruments to assess and monitor the level of knowledge and behaviour about dietary salt intake and to relate these factors to the population general dietary habits.
Methods and Results: A self-administered questionnaire was developed to assess the salt and health related knowledge and behaviour of the Italian population through an online survey. A sample of 11,618 Italian participants completed the questionnaire. The degree of knowledge and the reported behaviour about salt intake were both found to be related to age, gender, home region, level of education and occupation. There was a significant interrelation between salt knowledge and behaviour and both were significantly and directly related to the degree of adherence to a Mediterranean-like dietary pattern. A hierarchical evaluation was also made of the relevance of any single question to the overall assessment of knowledge and behaviour about salt intake.
Conclusions: The study population overall appeared to have a decent level of knowledge about salt, but a less satisfactory behaviour. Our findings point to social inequalities and young age as the main factors having a negative impact on knowledge and behaviour about salt intake as part of generally inadequate dietary habits. The degrees of knowledge and behaviour were significantly and directly interrelated, confirming that improving knowledge is a key step for behavioural changes, and suggesting that educational campaigns are crucial for the implementation of good practices in nutrition.