Halve our salt intake and save millions of lives, says new report


If we could end our love affair with salt we would save tens of thousands of lives in Britain and millions around the world, researchers claim today.

Halving daily consumption from 9-12 gms a day, the goal set a decade ago, could prevent 35,000 deaths from heart disease and stroke in the UK and 2.5 million deaths globally.

Professor Graham MacGregor of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Barts and the London Medical School, a lifelong campaigner on the dangers of salt and author of a review of 34 trials involving 3,000 adults published tomorrow in the British Medical Journal said the findings showed  a “modest reduction” in salt consumption led to significant falls in blood pressure. 

“This will … reduce strokes, heart attacks, and heart failure. Furthermore, our analysis shows a dose-response relation — that is, the greater the reduction in salt intake, the greater the fall in blood pressure,” Professor MacGregor and colleagues said.

“All countries should adopt a coherent and workable strategy to reduce salt intake. A reduction in population salt intake will have major beneficial effects on health along with major cost savings in all countries around the world.”

The World Health Organisation recommends salt consumption is reduced to 5-6 gms a day but Professor MacGregor says this does not go far enough. He is backed by the National Institute for Care and Health Excellence (NICE) which recommends a daily limit of 3 gms for the UK.

Doubts about the wisdom of reducing salt have been raised in the last two years by rival researchers. A review of 167 studies by Niels Graudal of Copenhagen University , Denmark in 2011 found while cutting salt reduced blood pressure it increased hormones and fats in the blood that “could be harmful if persistent over time.”

Professor MacGregor said the review was flawed because many of the trials were short term and thus irrelevant in the context of a public health recommendation for a modest reduction in salt consumption over a long period.

He also dismissed two papers in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2011 which claimed lowering salt increased heart deaths rather than decreasing them. They had many “methodological flaws,”  including errors in assessing daily salt intake.

A campaign to reduce salt consumption in the UK began in 2003-4 and was deemed successful when by 2011 average salt intake had fallen by 1.4 grams a day (from 9.5 to 8.1 gms) saving 9,000 lives a year and estimated costs to the economy of over £2 billion.

A separate review of potassium found higher levels reduced blood pressure and were linked with a 24 per cent reduction in stroke.  Sodium (salt) should be replaced with potassium, contained in most fruits and vegetables, the researchers from Italy say.

How to cut down on salt

The obvious way is to bin the salt shaker – something few diners will want to contemplate. Salt is the most widely used flavour enhancer, adding savour as well as preserving food. It is essential to life – but harmful in excess.

However, sealing up the salt shaker has less effect than is widely thought. The salt added at table accounts for just 20 per cent of daily consumption. The remaining 80 per cent  comes from processed food – cheese, bread, pizza - and is added by manufacturers.

The result is most people consume far more salt than they realise. The first step to salt reduction is: read the label. Then try to choose low salt alternatives. Three quarters of processed foods carry traffic light labelling to indicate fat, sugar and salt content. The simple message is: eat green.

peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

    £70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

    £20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

    Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

    £24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all