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Premature death and to much salt in a diet – is there a link?
A new study suggests that a higher frequency of adding salt to cooked meals was associated with an increased risk of premature death and lower life expectancy.
It is estimated that 1 in 10 global cardiovascular deaths is due to high sodium intake i.e. excess sodium intake attributable to 1.65 million cardiovascular deaths worldwide.
On the other side, higher intake of fruits and vegetables attenuated or weakened this association between salt usage and increased mortality risk.
Adding salt to meals at the table accounts for 6-20% of daily sodium intake, and limiting the use of salt at the table could potentially have health benefits.
The World Health Organization recommend that adults should consume less than 2 g of sodium per day. However, results of the study revealed that the average worldwide sodium intake in 2010 was 3.95 g per day – almost double the daily recommendation set by WHO.
A recent study published in the European Heart Journal shows that individuals who always add salt to cooked meals were at a 28% higher risk of premature death than those who rarely add salt. A higher frequency of adding salt at the table was also associated with a lower life expectancy.
Dr. Lu Qi, an epidemiologist at Tulane University and the study’s principal investigator, said, “This is the first study showing adding salt to meals is related to a higher risk of premature death and shorter life expectancy. Adding salt is a behavior that could be modified; therefore, our findings suggest behavioral modification by reduction of adding salt to foods may be beneficial to human health.”
The present study consisted of data from more than half a million individuals with an average age of 57 years old who had volunteered to share their health data with the United Kingdom Biobank database. The researchers used a questionnaire to determine how often the participants added salt to cooked meals.
Based on their response, the participants were categorized as “never/rarely”, “sometimes”, “usually”, or “always” using salt at the table. The researchers also obtained urine samples from the participants to assess urinary sodium and potassium levels at baseline.
The researchers found a positive correlation between the frequency of adding salt and urinary sodium concentration. In contrast, a higher frequency of adding salt correlated with lower urinary potassium levels.
The researchers used mortality data from national registries to track participant deaths during the follow-up period of about nine years. They classified deaths under the age of 75 as being premature.
After controlling for variables such as age, sex, diet, preexisting diseases, and physical activity levels, the researchers found that a higher frequency of adding salt to food was associated with an increased risk of premature death from all causes and lower life expectancy. Compared with individuals who never or rarely added salt to their food, always adding salt to food reduced life expectancy by 1.5 years in women and by about 2.3 years in men ages 50.
The researchers found that a higher frequency of adding salt was associated with an increased risk of premature death due to cancer and cardiovascular disease. Among cardiovascular disease subtypes, individuals who frequently added salt to their food were at increased risk of premature death due to stroke but not coronary heart disease.
Notably, among individuals who consumed higher amounts of fruits and vegetables, a higher frequency of adding salt to meals was not associated with an elevated risk of premature death. These results suggest that consuming potassium-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables could attenuate the effects of adding salt to food on mortality.
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