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Salt: The Silent Killer?

Reducing daily salt consumption by just 5g could prevent millions of deaths each year according to a meta-analysis published in the November 2009 issue of the British Medical Journal.

Researchers at Warwick and Naples Universities analyzed 13 studies with over 170,000 participants collectively. The studies all looked into the relationship between habitual salt intake and stroke and cardiovascular disease rates in the US, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, Scotland and Taiwan.

They found that a mere 5g reduction in daily salt intake was associated with a 23% reduction in stroke rates, and a 17% reduction in cardiovascular disease rates in these countries.

The researchers say that by their most conservative estimates, reducing salt intake would avert 1.23 million deaths from stroke and 3 million deaths from cardiovascular disease.

In light of these findings, regulations on salt in food products needs to be seriously re-evaluated, say the researchers.

Currently, the average salt consumption in Western countries is 10g a day. The World Health Organization advises that adults consume no more than 5g per day.

According to Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of Consensus Action on Salt and Health, it is essential that manufacturers continue to reduce the amount of salt they add to their products in order to save the maximum number of lives.

The researchers recommended more government support and regulation to encourage manufacturers to move more quickly in reducing salt in their products. In the meantime, it is important to read the ingredients on your foods and try to limit your daily salt intake.

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