Monday, March 25, 2013

Excessive Salt Intake Linked to Millions of Deaths

New research has shown that excessive salt consumption has played a role in over two millions heart-related deaths worldwide in 2010 alone, with 40% of those deaths premature.  The study was detailed at the American Heart Association’s meeting in New Orleans on March 21, 2013.  Researchers looked at 247 surveys of adults that participated in the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Survey, an international collaboration between researchers from 50 countries worldwide.  Time summarized the investigation’s scope and methods:  

[Study participants] reported on their sodium intake from 1990 to 2010 in food questionnaires. Overall, adults around the world ate an average of 4,000 mg of sodium a day, either from prepared foods or from table salt, soy sauce or additional salt sprinkled into meals while cooking. That’s twice the amount recommended by the World Health Organization (2,000 mg per day) and nearly three times the amount the AHA says is healthy (1,500 mg per day).

Researcher’s reported that salt’s impact on global health has been substantial.  A second study that was a meta-analysis of 107 randomized controlled trials helped to show the effects of excess sodium consumption and its impact of people’s risk of cardiovascular disease around the globe.  Highlights include:

·         Among the 30 largest countries, the highest death rates due to excess salt consumption per million adults were Ukraine (2,109); Russian (1,803); and Egypt (836).

·         The United States ranked 19th out of the 30 largest countries, with 429 salt-related deaths per million adults (which translates to 1 in 10 heart-related deaths in the U.S., according to the study authors).

·         Among all countries surveyed (187 in total), those with the lowest salt-related death rates per million adults were Qatar (73); Kenya (78); and United Arab Emirates (134).

·         84% of deaths occurred in low and middle-income countries

·         Kenya was reportedly the only country surveyed to adhere to the AHA's recommended 1,500 mg/day limit.

·         The highest proportion of cardiovascular disease related deaths tied to salt-laden diets were in the Philippines, Myanmar and China.

Time  also included a details from the Salt Institute:

The Salt Institute criticized the study, noting that the added heart-disease risk was compared with an unrealistically low level of salt consumption that no country in the world met. “This latest AHA statistical study on the worldwide mortality from dietary salt is misleading and totally devoid of genuine evidence,” said Morton Satin, vice president of science and research for the Salt Institute, in a statement. “Using a highly flawed statistical model, researchers simply projected potential reductions in mortality without considering all known health risks resulting from low salt intake.”

Adults aren’t the only ones at risk.  Other research discussed at the AHA meeting included some that showed children are already consuming too much salt.  The high sodium content in many prepackaged meals and snacks that are aimed at kids can force them into eating unhealthy amounts.  According to the data presented, about 75% of pre-packaged meals are high in sodium, defined as containing more than 210 mg per serving.  The study found that toddler meals could contain up to 630 mg of sodium per serving.

“Our concern is the possible long-term health risks of introducing high levels of sodium in a child’s diet, because high blood pressure, as well as a preference for salty foods, may develop early in life. The less sodium in an infant’s or toddler’s diet, the less he or she may want it when older,” said lead author Joyce Maalouf, a fellow at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, in a statement.

The AHA advised people to remember that salt doesn’t only come from the shaker but can be found in many of the packaged foods consumed each day.  Because this is often hidden, they advise closely reviewing the nutrition facts on foods that you don’t make yourself.  They also advise that when cooking at home, keep a close eye on the amount of salt added to foods and try to substitute with other flavors such as herbs and spices or lemon juice to trick taste buds into thinking they are getting the “salt” they are looking for.