Cutting salt could save 20,000 lives each year in UK
Too much salt increases risk of high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks and strokeAdults should consume no more than 6g a day, but on average UK men have 9.7g and women have 7.7g
11:41 GMT, 12 February 2013
11:41 GMT, 12 February 2013
Reducing the amount of salt in our diets could save nearly 20,000 lives in the UK every year, according to researchers.
Doctors say deaths from heart disease would fall dramatically if consumers paid attention to food labels.
Yet most Britons have no idea how much salt they consume or what the maximum recommended levels are.
Don't add salt: Our diets are already salt-heavy with 80% coming from processed foods
The recommended maximum daily intake for adults is 6g in the UK, although just last month the World Health Organisation revised this down to 5g.
Yet according to figures from the British Heart Foundation, men consume around 9.7g a day, while women have 7.7g.
Now researchers at three universities, including Harvard Medical School, have revealed the dramatic effect reducing salt could have on death rates by using computer models.
They estimated that reducing salt intake to 6g (or 2,300mg of sodium) would save 500,000 to 850,000 lives in the U.S over the next decade.
'No matter how we look at it, the story is the same – there will be huge benefits in reducing sodium,' said study author Dr Pam Coxson, from UCSF.
The British consumer group Consensus Action on Salt & Health said reducing the UK's daily intake to 6g could save around 17,500 deaths from heart attacks and strokes a year.
If food labels only contain sodium levels, multiply this number by 2.5 to get the salt content
British GP Ian Campbell, medical director of charity Weight Concern, told Mail Online: 'Salt is a big problem in the UK too. It's a silent killer. Over time consuming too much of it increases the risk of high blood blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
'About 80 per cent of our salt intake comes from processed foods, so it can be difficult to avoid.
'Many people are unaware of where salt is hidden, such as bread, soups, ready meals, even breakfast cereals and mayonnaise.
'The Government approach has been to encourage food manufacturers to modify the amount of salt in their products. There has been a reduction but it is taking too long. The Food Standards Agency should consider setting mandatory maximum levels for salt.'
Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, added: 'Eating too much salt may raise your blood pressure and having high blood pressure increases your risk of developing coronary heart disease.
'The Government has worked with the food industry to reduce the amount of salt in our food and make labels clearer. But there is still work to be done by everyone because the majority of Brits are still consuming more salt than they should be.'