Eat Less Salt and Live Longer

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Dr. Bibbins-Domingo calculated the potential impact of reducing the salt intake at the American Heart Association?s 49th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention in Florida (abstract P51). The average American adult consumes 9 to 12 g of salt daily. According to Dr. Bibbins-Domingo?s calculations, each 1 g reduction of salt intake (or 400 mg in sodium) would prevent about 200,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease (CVD) over the next decade. She used the Coronary Heart Disease Policy model with additional data to assess stroke risk to develop a computer model of what would happen to the health of the US population in the future based on the reduction of dietary salt.

The risk calculation was based on the known adverse impact of dietary salt on blood pressure and the subsequent increased risk of heart disease and stroke. According to her computer model if the average American cut their daily salt intake by 3 g day or sodium intake by 1,200 mg day this would provide morbidity and mortality benefits ?on the same order of magnitude as if we could eliminate smoking in the population.?

Dr. Bibbins-Domingo?s computer model estimated that over the next 10 years more than 800,000 life years could be saved for each 1g reduction in dietary salt intake. If the average American cut their salt intake in half it would dramatically cut the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart failure. It would also dramatically reduce the risk of kidney failure. Net-net cutting the excessive amount of salt the food industry now freely adds to the diet of Americans would save far more lives than if every American smoker quit and never smoked again. In several European countries pressure on the food industry to cut the amount of salt they add to foods along with public health promotional efforts for consumers to limit dietary salt have already proven successful. Since it is now clear added dietary salt is killing more Americans than tobacco smoke it is time the FDA to reclassify salt as some other than a ?generally recognized as safe? food additive.

By James J. Kenney, PhD, RD, FACN.

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