Cutting salt intake could lead to a healthy heart
Eating smaller amounts of salt every day as a teenager could help to reduce high blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke in adulthood, research suggests.
Researchers from the University of California used computer modelling to project that reducing daily salt intake by 3g could result in a 44 to 63 per cent reduction in the number of teenagers and young adults with hypertension. This amounts to up to 550,000 fewer cases of hypertension.
By the time the teenagers reach 50, the benefits of cutting levels of salt in their diet will become clear. Rates of coronary heart disease would fall by 7 to 12 per cent, the number of heart attacks by 8 to 14 per cent and the number of strokes by up to 8 per cent.
The findings echo calls from NICE to reduce daily salt intake, which were outlined in guidance on preventing cardiovascular disease in June this year.
The guidance recommends a reduction in salt intake, aiming for a maximum intake of 6g per day per adult by 2015 and 3g daily by 2025.
Speaking at the time of the guidance launch, Professor Simon Capewell, vice chair of the guidance group and an expert in public health from the University of Liverpool, warned that more and more people were consuming excessively high levels of salt in their diets.
“We know that currently across the UK, people are consuming about 8.5g of salt every day, and that's two to three times higher than the level our bodies actually need.”
“If salt levels in food are reduced by 5 to 10 per cent a year, most consumers don't even notice any difference in taste - their taste buds simply adjust. Meanwhile they will benefit from better health and reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.”
This latest study, presented earlier this week at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions in Chicago, found that even a 1g reduction in salt consumption was enough to lead to a drop in systolic blood pressure of 0.8mm Hg.
Lead researcher Dr Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, said: “Reducing the amount of salt that is already added to the food that we eat could mean that teenagers live many years free of hypertension.
“The additional benefit of lowering salt consumption early is that we can hopefully change the expectations of how food should taste ideally to something slightly less salty.”
Dr Bibbins-Domingo added: “The hidden places of salt in our diet are in breads and cereals, canned foods and in condiments, and of course in fast foods.
“Most of the salt that we eat is not from our salt shaker but salt that is already in the food that we eat.”
18 November 2010