Reduction in salt intake could prevent deaths: US study

Pressure check

A more dramatic and immediate decline to 1,500 mg of salt per day across the U.S. population could prevent up to 1.2 million deaths, largely from heart disease or stroke, the researchers calculated. But that isn't very realistic, policy-wise.

"The gradual reduction is something that many countries around the world are working on in various ways," Coxson told Reuters Health.

For example, she said, some countries have worked with bakers to cut back on sodium in bread, and others have focused on meat and canned goods. "The big majority of our intake of sodium is coming from those types of processed foods," Coxson said.

"The individual at home with their salt shaker only controls maybe 20 to 25 percent of their intake."

TOO LITTLE SODIUM?

Dr. Michael Alderman from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York, said the researchers' calculations are missing data on how too little sodium can also raise heart risks, through its effect on blood fats and insulin.

"They begin with the hypothesis that lowering sodium intake, because it will lower blood pressure - and nobody debates that - will inevitably translate into a reduction in cardiovascular events," he told Reuters Health. But in reality, he said, "The net effect of these conflicting consequences of reducing sodium will be the health effect."

Alderman said there's no evidence eating less than 2,000 mg of sodium per day is beneficial for the average person. "Like every other essential nutrient that I know of, too little is not good for you, and too much is not good for you," he said.

For people who do want to cut back on their sodium, Coxson said diet changes are possible despite the influence of the country's salty, processed food environment.

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