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Reducing Salt Levels in Diet Could Save Hundreds of Thousands of Lives in US

Update Date: Feb 12, 2013 05:49 AM EST

Cutting down salt intake can save thousands of lives over a decade, says a new study.

In the study, researchers used computer models to predict the health outcome of the U.S. population if everybody decided to cut-down on salt intake by about 40 percent to 2,200 mg/day over 10 years.

The average sodium intake for Americans age 2 years and older is 3,436 mg per day, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also, salt in the diet doesn't just come from the salt-shaker at the table, but also from the processed food.

The Institute of Medicine had earlier said that reducing salt intake alone can save up to 100,000 lives annually in the U.S. IOM recommends a salt intake of less than 2,300 milligrams, that's about a teaspoon of table salt a day (including cooking and extra salt added to food).

The computer simulations were carried out by three research teams from Researchers from UC San Francisco, Harvard University's School of Public Health and Simon Fraser University in Canada, LA Times reported.

Study results showed that just reducing salt from daily-food can save anywhere between 280,000 and 500,000 lives over the next ten years in the U.S.

"The research groups used the same target populations and baseline death rates for each projection, and our study found that the different sources of evidence for the cardiovascular effects of sodium led to similar projected outcomes," said Pamela Coxson, Ph.D., lead author of the study from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF).

Researchers used three approaches to see the effects of sodium reduction in diet. The first approach included a gradual reduction in salt intake by 40 percent; second approach was instant reduction of salt in diet by 40 percent and the third approach was to limit salt intake to 1500 mg/day.

Although, the third approach of limiting salt to just 1500 mg/day, showed the best health-outcomes over the next ten years. Researchers say that reducing salt gradually is a more practical approach in reducing salt in diet.

"These findings strengthen our understanding that sodium reduction is beneficial to people at all ages. Even small, gradual reductions in sodium intake would result in substantial mortality benefits across the population," Coxson said in a news release.

The present study is published in the journal Hypertension.                                                                             

Recent studies have also shown that kids are consuming a lot of salt nowadays (Journal Pediatrics) and that high salt in diet makes children want to drink beverages that are high in sugar, which in turn leads to higher weight-gain.

Sodium reduction saves lives as well as  money, according to an earlier research article published in Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

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