Tougher salt regulations advocated in light of new heart disease research

By James Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

New research into the link between salt consumption and heart disease has sparked call for further regulation in the UK
New research into the link between salt consumption and heart disease has sparked call for further regulation in the UK

Related tags: Ingredients, Salt

Action on salt has called for legislation or taxation to be used to cut salt content in food and drink products, after a new study found a link between salt intake and people suffering and dying from strokes and heart disease.

The study, ‘24-Hour Urinary Sodium and Potassium Excretion and Cardiovascular Risk’, ​found a link between salt intake and strokes and heart disease between the range of 5 and 15g/day – the lower the salt intake, the lower the risk.

Every 1,000mg per day increase in sodium excretion (equivalent to 2.5g salt) was associated with an 18% increased risk of heart disease. For every 1,000mg per day increase in potassium excretion, the risk of strokes and heart disease was 18% lower.

In addition, higher sodium to potassium ratio was significantly associated with increased risk. These associations were consistent across subgroups defined according to age, sex, baseline blood pressure, weight status, and years of follow-up.

‘Robust, global evidence’

Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London, chairman of Action on Salt and co-author of the study said: “Without doubt, this robust global evidence supports salt reduction, and will reduce the number of people dying and suffering from strokes and heart disease, which remain the biggest cause of death in the UK.

“Reducing salt is the most cost-effective measure to lower blood pressure and reduce health inequalities.”

In light of the new results, Action on Salt was disappointed that the UK continued to follow a voluntary approach to salt reduction in food products. It claimed that leaving the food industry to self-regulate meant population salt intake had not changed since 2014.

Legislation or taxation

“For too long the UK Government has allowed the food industry to be in charge of public health at our expense,”​ MacGregor added. “The new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities must now get the food industry, either by legislation or taxation, to reduce the salt that they add to the food we buy.”

Report co-author and professor of global health research at the Wolfson Institute of Population Health (Queen Mary University of London) Feng He the results made it clear we should no longer question the science to take direct action to lowering the amount of salt we consume.

“Recommendations have been put in place to reduce population salt intakes for many years now: it’s time to act,”​ He concluded.

Meanwhile, Action on Salt’s sister group, Action on Sugar, has called for the removal of misleading nutrition and health claims baby and toddler snacks​after claiming that some contain an much as two teaspoons of sugar per serve.

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