Millions of Annual Deaths Linked to High Salt Consumption
A massive new analysis of data gathered from populations across the globe shows that millions of deaths each year from cardiovascular disease may be attributed to too much salt in the diet. The World Health Organization says no more than 2 grams of sodium per day is desirable for optimal cardiovascular health. But Americans routinely consume nearly twice that much. Most of the excess comes from salty packaged, processed, and/or fast foods.
Remarkably, the study amassed data from nearly 74 percent of the adults in the world. The meta-analysis looked at 107 controlled studies conducted on a broad range of populations globally. Statistical analysis allowed investigators to determine the effects of excess salt consumption on the risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke.
A high intake of sodium is associated with high blood pressure (hypertension) among susceptible adults. Reducing dietary sodium is one of the recommendations doctors make for controlling hypertension. It’s also important to get adequate magnesium and potassium in the diet, as these essential minerals help counterbalance the blood pressure effects of sodium.
In 2010, say investigators, 1.65 million deaths from cardiovascular disease (about one-tenth of all such deaths that year) could be attributed to sodium intake in excess of the recommended 2.0 grams per day. Excess dietary sodium has also been linked to a higher risk of kidney disease and stomach cancer. Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, who led the research while at the Harvard School of Public Health, said, "These new findings inform the need for strong policies to reduce dietary sodium in the United States and across the world."
Dariush Mozaffarian, Saman Fahimi, Gitanjali M. Singh, Renata Micha, Shahab Khatibzadeh, Rebecca E. Engell, Stephen Lim, Goodarz Danaei, Majid Ezzati, John Powles. Global Sodium Consumption and Death from Cardiovascular Causes. New England Journal of Medicine, 2014; 371 (7): 624 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1304127