Not So Savory News for Salt Lovers

Lowering salt intake reduces hypertension risk; imposed limits appear to be most effective measure

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Curbing salt intake in teens could reduce the number of young adults with high blood pressure, while imposing statutory limits of salt content in foods appears most effective way to cut intake.

Teens who cut back as little as half of a teaspoon of salt (about 3 grams) a day may slash their risk of developing hypertension as a young adult by 45 to 60 percent, according to a new study.

Teens, in particular, are at risk because they consume more salt (more than 9 grams on average) than other age groups. That's about 3,800 milligrams of sodium per day. The American Heart Association recommends less than half of that amount (no more than 1,500 milligrams) of sodium in a day.

Researchers looked at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2008 to find systolic blood-pressure distribution among teens and adults using the Coronary Heart Disease Policy Model (a computer simulation of heart disease among U.S. adults.)

The researchers concluded a massive reduction in salt is necessary, even though individuals find it hard to make meaningful cuts "because most salt comes from processed foods (such as fast food and processed snacks), not from the salt shaker."

By lowering salt intakes three grams per day, the researchers estimate 380,000 to 550,000 fewer hypertensive young people aged 12 to 24 and 2.7 to 2.9 million fewer hypertensive adults aged 35 to 50.

The findings from the University of California, San Francisco and Columbia University Medical Center study indicate food industry regulators could markedly improve national health by small reductions in the amount of salt in processed foods, which account for the majority of salt consumed in the U.S.

Meanwhile Australian researchers have concluded that 610,000 years of healthy life could be added to the general population of the country if everyone reduced salt intake to recommended limits (a maximum of 6 grams a day in Australia).

They found, however, that voluntary restrictions in salt intake are not as effective as government-mandated limits of salt (resulting in .05 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease for voluntary restrictions compared to an estimated 18 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease resulting from statutory limits), again, because most salt comes from processed foods, not from the salt shaker.

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Review Date: 
January 25, 2011
Last Updated:
January 26, 2011