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Too Much Salt in Diet Linked to 2.3 Million Deaths in 2010

Mar 22, 2013 04:11 AM EDT

In the year 2010, about 2.3 million people around the world died of diseases that could be prevented or controlled by restricting salt in the diet, says a new study.

For the study, researchers obtained data from 247 surveys that looked at adult sodium intake. Next, the researchers looked at the results of 107 trials that measured the effects of sodium on blood pressure along with a meta-analysis of how these blood pressure differences affect a person's chances of developing heart diseases. The standard amount of salt consumption per individual was kept at 1,000 mg per day.

The average sodium intake for Americans aged 2 years and older is 3,436 mg per day, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also, salt in the diet doesn't just come from the salt-shaker at the table, but also from processed food. A recent study indicated that at least 75 percent of all pre-packaged foods marketed for toddlers have high levels of sodium.

In the study, at least a million deaths were among people who were 69 years of age or younger. More than 80 percent of these deaths were linked to high salt consumption in low- and middle-income countries.

"National and global public health measures, such as comprehensive sodium reduction programs, could potentially save millions of lives," said Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., lead author of the study and co-director of the Program in Cardiovascular Epidemiology and associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, in a statement.

Ukraine (2,109), Russia (1,803) and Egypt (836) were among the three top countries (out of 30 countries) that had more people dying of diseases linked to high salt intake. The U.S. ranked 19th in this list

On the other end of the spectrum were Qatar (73), Kenya (78) and United Arab Emirates (134) that had fewer people dying due to excess consumption of salt.

The study was presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions.

Institute of Medicine had earlier said that reducing salt intake alone can save up to 100,000 lives annually in the U.S. IOM recommends a salt intake of less than 2,300 milligrams. That's about a teaspoon of table salt a day (including cooking and extra salt added to food).

Sodium reduction saves lives as well as saves money, according to an earlier research article published in Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

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