Reducing daily salt consumption by 1g can save 4 million lives

The study also found that reducing salt consumption by 6 grams would save 8 million lives.

Changing the diet could also stave off nearly 9 million cases of stroke and heart disease.

Reducing daily salt consumption by 1 gram could prevent more than 9 million cases of heart disease and stroke and save 4 million lives by 2030, according to estimates published in the journal Open Access. Prevention and health of BMJ nutrition.

China has one of the highest rates of salt intake in the world, averaging 11 grams/day – more than double the level recommended by the Chinese government. High salt consumption raises blood pressure, and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, which accounts for 40% of all deaths in China each year.

Researchers have set out to assess the health benefits of reducing salt intake across the country in order to help guide the creation of a practical salt reduction program.

They collected the most recent reliable statistics on population size, salt consumption, blood pressure, and disease rates by location and age, and then evaluated the impact on cardiovascular health of three different approaches.

The first was to reduce daily salt intake by 1g within a year. The second is the WHO’s interim goal of a 30% reduction by 2025, which equates to a reduction of 3.2 grams/day over the period.

The third goal was to reduce salt consumption to less than 5 grams per day by 2030, a goal set by the Chinese government in its Health and Development Action Plan, “Healthy China 2030”.

They then estimated the reduction in systolic blood pressure – the top number in a blood pressure reading that indicates the force with which the heart pumps blood throughout the body – and subsequent risks of heart attack/stroke and cardiovascular death.

Given that adults in China, on average, consume 11 g/day of salt, reducing this by 1 g/day should lower average systolic blood pressure by about 1.2 mmHg. If this reduction is achieved within a year and sustained, about 9 million cases of heart disease and stroke could be prevented by 2030 – 4 million fatal cases.

Continuing this situation for another 10 years could add up to about 13 million averted heart attacks and strokes—six million of them fatal.

Achieving the WHO interim target by 2025 will require a reduction of 3.2 grams/day in salt intake. And if this situation continues for another 5 years, it will be possible to prevent about 14 million cases of heart disease and strokes by 2030 – 6 million fatal cases.

If maintained until 2040, the cumulative total could be around 27 million cases, 12 million of which are fatal.

Achieving the ‘Healthy China 2030’ target would require reducing salt intake by 6g/day, which would reduce average systolic blood pressure by just over 7 mmHg, and add up to 17 million prevented heart disease and stroke cases – 8 million of them are fatal.

The benefits of reducing dietary salt intake will apply to men and women of all ages across China, the researchers said.

There may also be additional health benefits, which the lack of relevant data did not allow the researchers to appreciate: These include secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease and a reduction in the incidence of chronic kidney disease and stomach cancer, rates of which are already high or rising. In China, they suggest.

The Chinese government’s “Healthy China 2030” action plan includes dietary recommendations to reduce salt, sugar and oil intake. This modeling study shows that reducing salt alone can bring enormous health benefits to the entire population of China,” the researchers say, adding that reducing daily intake by 1 gram is “easily achievable.”

But they highlight the following: “Our estimates are based on salt reduction not only to be achieved but also sustainable over time, which can be very challenging given the rapidly changing diet patterns seen in China due to its rapid urbanization.”

They concluded: “The evidence for the intrinsic benefits of salt reduction in China is consistent and convincing. Achieving and maintaining population salt reduction and maintenance in China could prevent millions of unnecessary cardiovascular diseases and deaths. Given the massive size of the Chinese population, this would also achieve Significant benefits to global health.”

Shane McAuliffe, Head of Science and Digital Communications at the NNEdPro Global Center for Nutrition and Health, who co-owns the journal, comments.

“Given the well-established dose-response relationship between salt intake, systolic blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, reducing intake by one of the world’s highest consumers would have a significant impact on population health—something that has already been achieved in other countries around the world,” he Add.

Reference: “Reducing Daily Salt Intake in China by 1g Could Prevent Nearly 9 Million Cardiovascular Cases by 2030: A Model Study” by Monique Tan, Feng He, Joanne K Morris, and Graham McGregor, August 16, 2022, Prevention of nutrition and health BMJ.
DOI: 10.1136 / bmjnph-2021-000408

The study was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research.