It is all over the news. A blockbuster report published in the February 11, 2013 issue of the medical journal Hypertension is widely quoted as saying that a 40 percent reduction in salt consumption from current levels could save up to 500,000 lives in America.
This report comes from notables who have contributed immensely to our knowledge about the dangers of salt intake. Scientists from the University of California San Francisco, Harvard Medical School, Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and the Centers for Disease Control put together three different models of salt reduction strategies along with calculations of the resulting reduction in related deaths that could be expected.
The outcomes of these models should prompt all of us to take a closer look at salt reduction. The American Heart Association’s recommendation to reduce salt intake to 1500mg a day, for example, hardly got any media attention. Yet by following the AHA limits on salt intake, death rates from heart disease and strokes could go down by an astonishing 25 percent from the current levels. We are talking about as many as 1.2 million deaths that could be avoided. Why would anyone not want to follow these guidelines?
We all know that premature death from salt intake is just one aspect of the tragedy that we inflict upon ourselves. The disabilities, dysfunction, pain and suffering that accompany a multitude of salt-induced illnesses affect millions of Americans. If you take into account how many millions would have a better living in retirement, you will get an even more complete picture of what a difference eating less salt could make.
Let us not forget, some groups such as Black Americans, suffer upwards of three to four times the number of salt-related illnesses than Caucasians do. Somehow this aspect does not get much media attention, as if they don’t exist or as if it doesn’t matter. This bothers me very much as I regularly take care of a number of Black Americans who unnecessarily pay a huge price for their salt habit.
Regardless of this new report or the fact that salt intake causes certain groups to suffer disproportionately, don’t expect any change in the salt industry’s response any time soon. In the published media reports, the Salt Institute is quoted as saying something along the lines of, “Enough already. Go pick on something else.”
Whether the salt industry cooperates or not, there is a lot you can do yourself. This crucial report should motivate you to cut the salt in your diet. Once you get used to less salt and actually begin to taste and enjoy the natural flavors of the foods you eat, you can easily cut your salt intake even lower than the AHA recommendation. You just have to put in that initial effort.