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.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
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

    Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

    Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

    £16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

    Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

    £7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

    Tribal gathering

    Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

    Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
    Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

    Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

    No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
    How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

    Power of the geek Gods

    Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

    Perfect match

    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
    10 best trays

    Get carried away with 10 best trays

    Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
    Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

    Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

    Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
    Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

    Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

    He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high