Posts Tagged ‘impact of salt’
According to new research, cutting salt intake to recommended levels worldwide could save about 3 million lives a year.
Take less salt can help lower your blood pressure. By itself, high blood pressure is not necessarily a big problem, but over time and combined with other factors like high cholesterol levels or overweight can increase our risk of having a heart attack or stroke. It would be interesting to know whether a low salt diet could reduce our risk of these serious health problems, rather than just lowering blood pressure.
Now, researchers have analyzed many small studies on salt intake to obtain a broader understanding of its effects on health. The researchers combined the results of 13 studies involving over 177,000 people from six countries including the U.S., Scotland and Japan.
In the new study, published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal), the British Medical Association, people who ate more salt were found to have more chances of suffering a stroke. On average, an extra consumption of 5 grams per day was associated with a risk of stroke by 23% higher.
This might seem a large increase, but the impact depends on what each one that is prone to suffer a stroke in the first instance.
The impact of salt on cardiovascular disease overall was not as clear.
A research problem is that it is difficult to measure precisely the amount of salt in a person. Most of the analyzed studies used food questionnaires to find out what took the participants, which determines the outcome in terms of accuracy (and integrity) of the replies. Only 4 of the 13 studies measured the amount of salt in the urine of participants (a much more accurate), but even these only measured the levels of salt for a day, so it did not take into account changes in the diet of people over time.
The Food Standards Agency says people should not drink more than 6g salt a day and the WHO recommendation is even lower (5g). However, salt intake in most countries is much higher than these recommendations.
Modern diets rich processed foods, canned and fast foods tend to have a high salt content. Even foods that seem innocuous, such as bread and breakfast cereals contain large amounts of salt. Therefore, according to the researchers, achieving important changes in the diets of people would, probably, a nationwide action, instead of simply recommending people to take less salt.
Personally, if we reduce our consumption of salt should:
* Look at the amount of salt in foods such as bread, breakfast cereals and convenience foods.
* Replace canned soups and vegetables for fresh vegetables and homemade soups, or else choose low-salt varieties.
* Drink fruit and vegetables as snacks instead of crackers.
* Avoid adding salt when cooking systematically or at the table.
* Season with herbs, spices, black pepper, lime, lemon, wine, tomatoes and garlic instead of salt to flavor cooked foods.