Salt is a chemical compound, called sodium chloride. Its chemical formula is NaCL. NA = sodium and CL = chlorine. Sodium chloride consists of 60% chlorine and 40% sodium. Sodium is the part that affects our health.
A high sodium intake can be very detrimental to one's health, leading to a series of negative health effects.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends consuming no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day , however, many Americans consume far more, this poses a serious public health concern. In fact, Americans consume close to 3,600 mg per day (average), which is more than double the limit set by the AHA.
In this study, the researchers developed and used computer simulations to observe the effects of slowly reducing sodium intake by about 5 percent of a teaspoon per day, down to 2,200 mg per day.
They found that the gradual reduction in sodium consumption over a period of 10 years could save up to 500,000 lives, with the possibility of saving even more lives if the reductions could be carried out in less time.
The study included a total of three different research groups; two used data indicating salt reduction lowers blood pressure and the other used observational cardiovascular outcome follow-up data. The simulations of each of these groups led to very similar outcomes.
Lead author of the study, Pamela Coxson, Ph.D., said:
"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."
The three different approaches reduced sodium intake by 40 percent either gradually or instantly. However, the researchers believe that the only achievable way to reach a 40 percent drop is over a 10 year period of gradual reduction.
Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Ph.D, M.D., senior author of the study, added: "It is helpful when three research groups use different approaches and come up with similar results."
Close to 80 percent of the sodium consumed by Americans comes from prepared and processed foods. Lower sodium food options are not nearly as common as food options packed with sodium, say researchers, making the recommended daily levels hard to achieve.
Health risks associated with high sodium consumptionHigh sodium consumption is thought to increase one's risk of developing a number of conditions; such as high blood pressure, cancer, and other cardiovascular complications. The journal Circulation recently confirmed that excessive salt intake can substantially increase the risk of hypertension.
In addition, according to the World Cancer Research Fund, reducing salt intake could prevent one in seven cases of stomach cancer.
"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."