Consuming A Little Less Salt Could Mean
every gram of salt that Americans reduce in their diets daily, a
quarter of a million fewer new heart disease cases and over 200,000
fewer deaths would occur over a decade, researchers said at the
American Heart Association’s 49th Annual Conference on
Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.
results were derived from a validated computer-simulation of heart
disease among U.S. adults.
very modest decrease in the amount of salt — hardly
detectable in the taste of food — can have dramatic health
benefits for the U.S.," said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Ph.D., M.D.,
M.A.S., lead author of the study and an assistant professor of Medicine
and of Epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco. "It
was a surprise to see the magnitude of the impact on the population,
given the very small reductions in salt that we were modeling."
3-gram–a-day reduction in salt intake (about 1200 mg of
sodium) would result in 6 percent fewer cases of new heart disease, 8
percent fewer heart attacks, and 3 percent fewer deaths. Even larger
health benefits are projected for African Americans, who are more
likely to have high blood pressure and whose blood pressure may be more
sensitive to salt. Among African Americans, new heart disease cases
would be reduced by 10 percent, heart attacks by 13 percent and deaths
by 6 percent.
years, ample evidence has linked salt intake to high blood pressure and
heart disease. Yet, salt consumption among Americans has risen by 50
percent and blood pressure has risen by nearly the same amount since
the 1970s, according to researchers.
Americans eat 9-12 grams of salt per day (or 3600-4800 mg of sodium.
This amount is far in excess than recommended by most health
organizations (5-6 grams/day of salt or 2000-2400 mg sodium). Each gram
of salt contains 0.4 grams of sodium.
clear that we need to lower salt intake, but individuals find it hard
to make substantial cuts because most salt comes from processed foods,
not from the salt shaker," Bibbins-Domingo said. "Our study suggests
that the food industry and those who regulate it could contribute
substantially to the health of the nation by achieving even small
reductions in the amount of salt in these processed foods."
estimate the benefit of making small reductions in salt intake, the
investigators used the Coronary Heart Disease Policy Model, a computer
simulation of heart disease in the U.S. adult population. The model can
be used to evaluate the impact of policy changes on the health of the
nation, and has previously been used to project the future of heart
disease in the United States given the current rate of childhood
obesity, Bibbins-Domingo said.
researchers used the model to estimate the impact of an immediate
reduction of daily salt intake by 0–6 grams on the incidence
of cardiovascular disease and deaths between 2010–2019. In
that period, the model suggests that more than 800,000 life-years could
be saved for each gram of salt lowered. Larger reductions would have
greater benefits, with a 6 gram reduction resultingin 1.4 million fewer
heart disease cases, 1.1 million fewer deaths and over 4 million
the majority of salt in the diet comes from prepared and packaged
foods, the results of the study reveal the need for regulatory changes
or voluntary actions by the food industry to make achievable changes in
heart health, Bibbins-Domingo said.
researchers are planning to assess the cost-effectiveness of various
interventions already being used to reduce salt consumption in other
countries, including industry collaborations, regulations and labeling
study was funded by the University of California, San Francisco
Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute Strategic Opportunities
for Support intramural grant.