The call comes as new analysis from international researchers, including authors from the Wolfson Institute, Queen Mary University of London and Action on Salt, published in the BMJ, has said there is strong evidence to support salt reduction as a key public health strategy to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of strokes and heart disease in the UK and worldwide
The analysis included 133 randomised trials with 12,197 individuals, looking at the effect of salt reduction on blood pressure. According to the researchers, it showed that salt reduction lowered blood pressure across the whole population, including those with blood pressure within normal ranges. Furthermore, the greater the reduction in salt intake, the greater the fall in blood pressure.
The study, it said, also showed that people who were older, had higher blood pressure or were of black ethnicity had an even bigger fall in blood pressure for a given reduction in salt intake.
A second review by researchers at the Wolfson Institute, Queen Mary University of London and Action on Salt and recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), reviewed almost 200 published studies. It found that a high salt intake was the major cause of raised blood pressure, which in itself was the leading cause of strokes and heart disease, the biggest causes of death and disability in the UK. Too much salt was also closely linked to osteoporosis, stomach cancer and kidney disease.
Professor Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Barts and The London Hospital and Queen Mary University of London, chairman of Action on Salt and co-author of the review, said: “From 2005 to 2011, the UK led the world with an effective, coherent salt reduction policy, by getting the food industry to slowly reduce the huge and unnecessary amount of salt they add to our food. This led to a reduction in population salt intake and a fall in population blood pressure, with major reductions in stroke and heart disease deaths.
“Since 2011, the Government has failed to continue this policy and the new Government must now force the food industry to start making further reductions in the amount of salt they add to our food, either with legislation or financial penalties for those who fail to comply.”
Professor Feng He, lead author of the review and researcher at Queen Mary University of London, said: “The totality of evidence in the JACC review and this latest BMJ research shows that reducing our salt intake will be immensely beneficial. Salt-reduction efforts should be reinforced in the UK and worldwide to save millions of people suffering and dying unnecessarily from strokes and heart disease each year.”