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UK study hails salt reduction for drop in heart deaths

A dip in people’s salt consumption has played an “important role” in the plummeting number of heart disease deaths, researchers have said.

Between 2003 and 2011 average salt intake in England decreased by around 15% while the number of deaths from heart disease reduced by 40% and stroke deaths fell by 42%, their study found.

The reduction in salt intake is likely to have played a key role in the dip in deaths, according to the research.

But the authors cautioned that the average salt consumption around the country is still far too high and said that more needs to be done to reduce people’s salt intake.

The research, published in the journal BMJ Open, examined 31,500 people’s risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease from Health Survey England results in 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2011.

The researchers noted falls in blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking rates and an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption. But there was a rise in average body mass index (BMI) rates.

Meanwhile salt intake was measured from 3,000 people taking part in the National Diet and Nutrition Survey between 2003 and 2011.

Using urine samples for analysis, they found that during this period salt consumption decreased by 1.4g a day – a 15% dip.”

“The reduction in salt intake is likely to be an important contributor to the falls in blood pressure”

Study authors

The study authors were from Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry and Queen Mary University, London.

They said: “It is likely that several factors, that is, the fall in blood pressure, total cholesterol and smoking prevalence, the reduction in salt intake and the increase in the consumption of fruit and vegetables, along with improvements in the treatment of blood pressure, cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, contributed to a decrease in stroke and ischaemic heart disease mortality.”

They added: “The reduction in salt intake is likely to be an important contributor to the falls in blood pressure in England from 2003 to 2011.

“As a result, the decrease in salt intake would have played an important role in the reduction in stroke and ischaemic heart disease mortality during this period.

“Despite considerable progress being made on salt reduction, the mean salt intake in England (8.1 g/day in 2011) was still 35% higher than the recommended level of 6g/day, and 70% of the adult population (80% men and 58% women) had a daily salt intake above the recommended level.

“Therefore, continuing and much greater efforts are needed to achieve further reductions in salt intake to prevent the maximum number of stroke and ischaemic heart disease deaths.”

“It is important that the food industry now works towards meeting the new salt reduction targets”

Victoria Taylor

Victoria Taylor, senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation, said: “While the reductions in average intakes of salt are a positive change, we mustn’t forget that they are still well above the recommended maximum of 6g a day for adults.

“As most of the salt we eat is already in our food, it is important that the food industry now works towards meeting the new salt reduction targets to make sure that we can continue to reduce the salt in our diet.”

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