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   Apr 16

Salt intake falls 15%… and heart deaths fall 40% (but we still eat too much of it)

Fall in salt consumption equates to a quarter of a teaspoon less a day

It is credited with stopping 18,000 strokes and heart attacks a year

Cutting back on salt does save lives – by preventing thousands of heart attacks and strokes a year, a landmark study has found.

The research showed that between 2003 – when salt-cutting initiatives began – and 2011, average salt intake fell by 15 per cent from 9.5g a day to 8.1g a day.

Scientists also found the number of deaths from heart disease fell by 40 per cent, the number of fatal strokes went down by 42 per cent and average blood pressure fell significantly.

Cutting down: Salt intake has dropped 15% – the equivalent of a quarter of a teaspoon a day – but researcher claims many are still consuming too much

Over the past decade, the food industry has been subject to voluntary targets to cut the amount of salt.

As a result, the levels of salt found in staples such as bread and bacon have fallen by between 20 and 40 per cent. Sales of salt have also dropped as the public has become more aware of the dangers of adding it to food.

In England this has resulted in the average person reducing their salt intake by just a quarter of a teaspoon a day. According to the study, this has stopped 18,000 strokes and heart attacks a year – half of which would have been fatal.


Average intake has fallen from 9.5g a day to 8.1g a day – a fall of 15 per cent.

However, this is still well above the 6g, or teaspoon a day, recommended for health.

Most of the salt in our diet –75 per cent – come from processed foods.

Bread is the biggest contributor, because we eat so much of it.

The hidden salt in breakfast cereals, cheese, meat and bacon and ready meals is also raising our blood pressure.

Some 10 per cent of the salt we eat occurs naturally in food and just 15 per cent is added ourselves.

Many restaurant meals are also high in salt – with some containing more than a whole day’s ration in a single dish.

The change has also been credited with saving the NHS £1.5billion a year. But scientists said the food industry still has to do more to protect the nation’s health.

Researcher Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Barts and the London School of Medicine, said that gradually cutting salt levels in everyday foods had led to millions of people reducing their intake without realising it.

He added: ‘From a public health point of view, it is a brilliant policy because it catches everyone without them having to change what they eat.

‘A successful public health policy is so much more effective than treating patients.’ But he went on to say:

‘The Department of Health must take a much more robust attitude to the food industry. If they do not, we must regulate the salt targets to ensure that the maximum number of lives are saved and the maximum cost savings are made for the NHS.’

Scientists at the University of London analysed official data on blood pressure, salt intake and heart attacks and strokes in England. Salt is the main driver of high blood pressure, which in turn is the biggest single cause of heart disease and strokes.

The analysis concluded that the reduction in salt in our favourite foods was the key to ‘plummeting’ deaths from cardiovascular disease in recent years.

Hidden salt: Just 15% of salt consumed is added by consumers while 10% naturally occurs in food – the rest is found in processed foods

In the past, studies have questioned whether cutting salt levels in food can actually save lives. Professor MacGregor said the latest research, published in the journal BMJ Open, ‘completely vindicates’ the policy.

Victoria Taylor, senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘There is a wealth of evidence that links a high salt consumption to raised blood pressure, a risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke.

‘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.’Cutting back on salt does save lives – and prevents thousands of heart attacks and strokes a year, a landmark study has found.

Source: Daily Mail

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