15 March 2013

Salt reduction strategy could prevent thousands of deaths from CVD, says NICE

A new government strategy to reduce salt intake could lead to 20,000 fewer deaths each year from cardiovascular disease, says NICE.

A new government strategy to reduce salt intake could lead to 20,000 fewer deaths each year from cardiovascular disease, says NICE.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD), which includes stroke and coronary heart disease, is the leading cause of death both worldwide and in the UK.

Each year, it leads to more than 88,000 deaths, which is an average of 224 people dying each day, or one death every six minutes.

The majority of these deaths are preventable through taking certain actions such as performing regular physical activity, stopping smoking, and reducing salt intake.

In order to limit the harm caused to health by excess of salt, the government has launched a new strategy that aims to help reduce the daily intake of salt from an average of 8.1g a day to 6g a day.

The policy follows the NICE pathway on diet, based on guidance originally published in 2010, which recommends aiming for a maximum salt intake of 6g per day per adult by 2015, and 3g by 2025.

NICE says that a 3g reduction of daily salt intake by adults, to achieve a target of 6g, would lead to around 14-20,000 fewer deaths from CVD each year.

This would mean savings of up to £350 million in healthcare costs, which could be doubled £700 million through a mean reduction of 6g per day.

Further recommendations include ensuring that food producers and caterers continue to reduce the salt content of commonly consumed foods such as bread, meat and cheese, through changing recipes, products, and manufacturing and production methods.

In addition, policy makers should ensure that low-salt products should be sold more cheaply than their higher salt equivalents, and that products which are naturally high in salt and cannot be meaningfully reformulated should be clearly labelled.

The new government salt strategy follows the NICE recommendations, by calling for a revision of 2012 salt targets for industry to a maximum of 6g per day by the end of the year. This is in order to encourage companies to reformulate recipes.

It calls for the catering and the take-away sector to do more by setting new maximum targets for popular items such as sandwiches and crisps.

Furthermore, it proposes asking companies to help people choose lower salt options through promotions, and getting more organisations across the food industry to sign up to salt reduction.

Anna Soubry, Public Health Minister, said: "Today our typical shopping basket contains much less salt than it did 10 years ago but more needs to be done to help lower these levels even further.

She added: "The UK is world-leading in salt reduction but more needs to be done to reach our goal of no more than 6g a day.

"This is because eating too much salt can have a serious impact on people's health - causing high blood pressure, which could lead to heart disease and stroke. Currently 90 companies have signed up to make salt reduction a priority, and we want to see real action from many more."

Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary, University of London, and Chair of the Consensus Action on Salt and Health, commented: "Salt reduction is the single most cost-effective public health intervention, and the UK has led the world.

"Whilst we strongly support the new initiative, we must now consider legislation to ensure all sections of the food industry do comply".

Full recommendations on preventing CVD through the reduction of salt, saturated fats and trans fats, can be seen in the NICE pathway on diet.