Food manufacturers’ salt cuts ‘have saved lives’

Efforts to reduce salt intake pay off with heart disease and stroke deaths down 40%

Health Reporter

Cuts to salt levels in our diet are likely to have contributed to huge reductions in the number of deaths caused by heart attacks and strokes over the past decade, doctors have said.

In new evidence of the harmful impact of salt in modern diets, and the benefits of cutting back, nutritionists compared data on people’s daily intake since 2003 with striking public health figures which show a 40 per cent drop in mortality connected with heart disease and stroke over the same time period in England.

Between 2003 and 2011, daily salt intake dropped by 15 per cent, according to data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey. The drop is likely to have been largely driven by cuts to the amount of salt that food manufacturers put in their products, as part of wide-reaching public health campaigns which launched throughout the UK in 2003.

Breads and cereals, which account for around a quarter of our daily salt intake between them, have seen cuts of around 30 per cent and 50 per cent respectively, while manufacturers of pasta sauces, biscuits and crisps have also cut back, following a widely-publicised reduction strategy introduced by the Food Standards Agency, in response to campaigning by public health experts.

According to a new study by experts at Queen Mary, University of London, daily salt intake has fallen by on average 1.4g between 2003 and 2011 and the Food Standards Agency estimates that more than 11 million kilograms of salt have been removed from foods in the UK.

However our consumption remains high at approximately 8.1 – 8.8g per day, leading the FSAs in all four UK nations to set new standards to cut salt levels even further to achieve average intake of 6g per day by 2017.

The new study, published in the online medical journal BMJ Open today used several sets of data, involving different cohorts of people, so cannot conclusively prove the impact of salt reduction on heart disease rates, but the authors said that it was nevertheless likely it would have been “an important contributor” alongside other factors such as reductions in the number of smokers, and intake of saturated fats.

Salt is known to increase blood pressure, which in turn is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Professor Graham MacGregor, of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Queen Mary, University of London said that it was “absolutely clear” that salt had contributed to a fall in recorded blood pressure rates, and therefore helped save lives.

The drive to reduce salt levels has been spearheaded by Professor MacGregor’s campaign group of doctors and nutritionists under the banner Consensus on Salt and Health.

Many of the same experts are now leading efforts to force the food industry to cut the levels of sugar in food, as part of the campaign group Action on Sugar.

“We have absolutely no nutritional need to eat sugar or salt,” Professor MacGregor told The Independent. “Salt directly puts up your blood pressure, it is a major cause of death through that.”

“Sugar is merely an unnecessary source of calories… The best way to deal with obesity is to get your calorie intake down, particularly in ultra-processed fast foods, which give no feeling of satiation and are marketed to children. In some ways, I think it’s remarkable we’re not all obese, given what the food industry is doing to us.”

Victoria Taylor, senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation, said: “While the reductions in average intakes of salt are a positive change, we mustn't forget that they are still well above the recommended maximum of 6g a day for adults.

“As most of the salt we eat is already in our food, it is important that the food industry now works towards meeting the new salt reduction targets to make sure that we can continue to reduce the salt in our diet.”

Professor MacGregor said that the reductions in blood pressure rates caused by lower salt intake since 2003 would have been responsible for saving around 9,000 lives per year by 2011, and 18,000 incidents of heart disease or stroke.

Arts and Entertainment
'A voice untroubled by time': Kate Bush
musicReview: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses papparrazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
people
Voices
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
News
i100
News
Ukrainian Leonid Stadnik, 37, 2.59 meter (8,5 feet) tall, the world's tallest living man, waves as he poses for the media by the Chevrolet Tacuma car presented to him by President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko in Kiev on March 24, 2008.
newsPeasant farmer towered at almost 8'5'' - but shunned the limelight
News
Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in ‘The Front Page’, using an old tech typewriter
media
Life and Style
Could a robot sheepdog find itself working at Skipton Auction Mart?
techModel would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian
film
Sport
Angel Di Maria poses with Louis van Gaal after signing for Manchester United
sportWinger arrives from Real Madrid and could make debut on Saturday
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Hooked on classical: cellist Rachael Lander began drinking to combat panic attacks
musicThe cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow...
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Organisational Change/ Transition Project Manager

    £500 - £550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently...

    Generalist HR Administrator, Tunbridge Wells, Kent - £28,000.

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Administrator - Tunbri...

    Nursery Assistant/Nurse all cheshire areas

    £7 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: We are a large and successful recrui...

    Digital Marketing Manager, Womens Fashion, London

    £50-£60K Plus Benefits: Charter Selection: Highly successful leading women’s l...

    Day In a Page

    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
    Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

    From strung out to playing strings

    Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
    The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
    Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

    Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

    The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
    On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

    On the road to nowhere

    A Routemaster trip to remember
    Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

    Hotel India

    Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
    10 best pencil cases

    Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

    Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
    Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

    Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

    Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
    Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

    Pete Jenson: A Different League

    Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
    This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

    The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

    Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis