Eating high amounts of salt is linked to a significantly higher risk of strokes and heart disease, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal.
The study looked at the relationship between the level of habitual dietary salt intake and the occurrence of stroke and heart disease by reviewing 13 prospective studies from the UK, Japan, the United States, the Netherlands, Finland, and China, including more than 170,000 participants, followed up for 3.5 to 19 years, who experienced nearly 11,000 vascular events.
The study provides unequivocal evidence of the direct link between high dietary salt intake and increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.
A 5 g lower daily salt intake would reduce stroke by 23% and total cardiovascular disease by 17%, thus averting 1.25 million fatal and non-fatal strokes, and almost 3 million vascular events worldwide each year. The effect is greater, the larger the difference in salt intake and increases with time.
"We have seen reductions in the salt content of several food items, due to the collaboration between governments, public health bodies, and sectors of the industry on a voluntary basis," said Francesco Cappuccio, World Health Organisation Collaboration Centre at Warwick Medical School.
"However, the progress towards the recommended targets has been slow. For population salt intake to approach the WHO targets within a reasonable time, a regulatory approach is necessary, in addition to health promotion campaigns, to reduce the burden of avoidable death, disability and associated costs to individuals and society caused by unacceptable high levels of salt in our diet".