Saturday, January 23, 2010

Small reduction in salt intake saves many lives

Similar to smoking cessation, cutting daily salt intake by just half a teaspoon can prevent a large number of deaths, a new study finds.

While an average US man gets about 10.4 grams of salt per day, this amount in a US woman is as low as 7.3 grams per day.

According to the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, cutting salt intake by a half teaspoon (equal to 3 grams) a day can prevent from 92,000 deaths, 99,000 heart attacks and 66,000 strokes, saving $24 billion in health costs annually.

This benefit is comparable to cutting smoking by 50 percent, the study found. "The [heart] benefits of reduced salt intake are on par with the benefits of population-wide reductions in tobacco use, obesity, and cholesterol levels," said lead researcher Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo.

Scientists, therefore, urged policymakers and food manufacturers to stop adding too much salt to processed foods, the main source of salt in the diet.