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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Arts and Entertainment
John Hurt will voice Prince Bolkonsky in Radio 4's War and Peace
radioRadio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
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

    Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

    Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

    Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up