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New Studies Show Reducing Salt Intake Can Significantly Lower Blood Pressure and Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke

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Dec 18, 2023

Multiple recent studies demonstrate clear link between excess salt consumption and hypertension, providing further evidence that cutting sodium can have major health benefits

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a dangerous condition affecting over 1 billion adults globally and a leading risk factor for stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease, and other serious health issues. Though usually asymptomatic, keeping blood pressure at healthy levels is critical – yet with modern diets high in processed foods loaded with excessive sodium, avoiding too much salt can be a challenge.

Several new major research studies published in the past week are bringing renewed attention to the clear connection between high salt intake, elevated blood pressure, and poor cardiovascular outcomes. Each report further cements that reducing dietary sodium consumption can significantly lower blood pressure and slash the chances of developing hypertension and related conditions like stroke, heart attack, and kidney disease for millions worldwide.

The implications of these findings are far-reaching and provide extra motivation for individuals, the food industry, and policy makers to take action in limiting salt consumption across populations for improved public health.

Cutting Salt Intake Found to Rapidly Improve Blood Pressure in Large Meta-Analysis

In one of the most in-depth examinations to date on the effects of lowered sodium intake published December 14th in The Lancet, an international team of over 100 researchers completed a new meta-analysis looking at nearly 200 clinical trials including over 20,000 participants.

Their results found even modest reductions in salt consumption over just 4 weeks caused notable drops in systolic and diastolic blood pressure – with those eating high sodium diets seeing the biggest improvements. Further cutting salt over time enhanced these benefits.

More specifically, they determined decreasing salt intake by around 2.3 grams per day lowered systolic pressure by an average of nearly 4 mmHg and diastolic by slightly over 1 mmHg compared to those who maintained high sodium diets of over 11 grams per day. For those with existing hypertension and thus higher baseline blood pressure levels, the effects were greater.

Though these changes may seem numerically small, scientists emphasize they would have profound impacts across whole populations in averting cardiovascular crises that high blood pressure set the stage for over years. Even slightly elevated pressure causes gradual damage exponentially raising dangers from heart attack or stroke later on.

Accordingly, the researchers predict if most people lowered their dietary salt by around a third translating to under 6 grams daily, it could prevent around 5 million deaths globally per year while adding trillions in economic benefits. Yet currently over 90% of adults eat too much salt, showing how far there still is to go.

| Blood Pressure Effects of Reduced Salt Intake |
|-|
| Systolic BP Lowering | 4 mmHg |
| Diastolic BP Lowering | 1 mmHg |
| Hypertension Patinets Effects | Greater Improvements |
| Potential Impact | 5 Million Annual Deaths Prevented |

Fatherly Finds Diets High in Salt Also Increase Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Increased salt consumption doesn’t just threaten cardiovascular health but also metabolic health, according to another study released on December 15th and published in the journal Diabetologia.

Examining the diets and health outcomes of over 21,000 male participants 40-65 years old who were followed for 8 years, Finnish researchers discovered men eating the most sodium each day had nearly double the risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those consuming less than 6 grams per day.

This expanded the existing evidence that excess salt can make maintaining proper blood sugar levels much harder while promoting insulin resistance – early indications of diabetes. Considering over 10% of the global adult population already has type 2 diabetes contributing to 3.2 million deaths annually, reducing prevalence is paramount.

Lead author Dr. Hanna-Maaria Lakka stresses further population-level policies targeting the food industry to lower sodium levels in supply chains could make following low-salt diets easier while having tremendous impacts deterring the interconnected rise in heart disease, stroke, obesity, kidney failure, blindness and amputations that uncontrolled diabetes brings.

Simple Diet Swap of Salt Substitutes Significantly Lowers Blood Pressure Finds New NHLBI Study

Alternatives to common table salt containing much less or even zero sodium have been around for years, yet a major limitation has been convincing people mass substituting salt for these products makes a meaningful difference health-wise.

But results of a large 3 year randomized trial enrolling over 600 rural Chinese participants with uncontrolled hypertension just published by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute provides some of the most definitive evidence to date that replacing regular salt with a salt substitute can substantially reduce blood pressure across populations.

Their secret weapon tested was a highly palatable and affordable salt substitute made of 75% sodium chloride mixed with 25% potassium chloride. Compared to standard care alone, this simple dietary swap lowered systolic/diastolic blood pressure by an average of 4.6/2.4 mmHg after 36 months.

Considering participants were already taking standard blood pressure medications, this additional improvement from solely cutting most dietary sodium shows the power this straightforward dietary modification offers towards controlling hypertension.

Study co-leader Dr. Stephen Juraschek affirms between widespread underuse of medications and doctors failing to emphasize dietary changes that evidence proves can meaningfully affect outcomes, there are readily available options policy makers must prioritize to stem the crisis of cardiovascular deaths related to suboptimal blood pressure.

Health Organizations and Governments Respond to Salt Studies with Calls for Action

In light of the accumulating data that limiting salt offers major advantages yet measures encouraging this are lacking, numerous health authorities are speaking out urging greater steps be taken by health systems and food regulation agencies to enable cutting sodium and improve population health markers.

Just this week, the WHO released new guidelines arguing governments must establish policies like national sodium reduction targets so intake falls below 5g day ultimately. Some cities like New York already have programs doing this by working with restaurants and food chains.

They also advocate for interventions like front-of-pack labelling and taxes on high-salt products while increasing access and affordability of fresh, whole foods lower in sodium. Certain regions paving the way with these types of innovative regulatory efforts include Argentina, South Africa, UK, Portugal, and Turkey.

Echoing the urgency, the American Heart Association CEO declared the totality of research proves limiting sodium can lessen blood pressure levels in a meaningful heart-healthy way. Yet currently over 70% of sodium Americans eat comes from packaged, processed, and restaurant foods – not home tables.

Thus they are petitioning authorities ensure the food industry substantively cuts sodium they add at manufacture for the benefit of public welfare. Some projections state if companies reduced added sodium by 40%, another 450,000 cases of cardiovascular disease could be averted per year alongside around $45 billion in medical savings.

What This Means Going Forward – Taking Action as Individuals and Societies is Key

The implications of these studies all convening now are hard to ignore. As Dr. Topor-Madry, leading author of the Lancet paper affirms, the totality of evidence conclusively proves excess salt boosts blood pressure and endangers health. Yet currently, over half eat double or more the WHO’s 5g a day recommendation.

It’s clear progress lowering salt in food supplies while helping populations cut back through better labeling, education and access to affordable healthy options is paramount to slashing heart disease and promoting public health. In countries like the UK already applying these strategies, blood pressure levels are falling.

On an individual level as well, being mindful of hidden sodium in common foods like bread, pizza, lunchmeats and salad dressings while preparing home-cooked meals emphasizing real, whole ingredients can make substantial impacts too – especially for those with high readings needing to take action. Low-sodium swaps and salt substitutes like the NHLBI formula can further these efforts.

In the end, the tools and knowledge are there empowering change across various levels – what’s needed next is the commitment from enough stakeholders so that this potential can translate into realization. Because lives hang in the balance, the time to act in reducing dietary sodium is now.

Is the Food Industry Ready to Own Their Role and Take Real Steps to Limit Added Salt?

With much dietary sodium coming from food processing itself, some health advocates argue regulators should threaten federal policy like taxes if manufacturers don’t voluntarily limit salt enough in their products.

Public health groups like the AHA may consider calling for an upper limit threshold on added sodium during production. Going further, an outright federal ban on salty junk food ads targeting kids has even been proposed mirroring steps taken against the tobacco industry.

However salty fare makes up some of the top selling items for many chains, so there may be reluctance without sufficient government pressure. But with potential bipartisan support rising, we’ll have to see if brands proactively self-enforce reasonable sodium cuts before forceful intervention arrives.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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