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Modest salt reduction lowers your risk of a heart attack or stroke

30 November 2011

Two weeks ago a Cochrane Review claimed that salt reduction had no effect on strokes or heart attacks. This review has been shown to be wrong in a commentary in The Lancet with a new analysis of the data. In fact the re-analysis of the same data in the Cochrane Report by Taylor et al shows a significant reduction in cardiovascular events – i.e. stroke and heart attacks by 20% (one in five) with a reduction of only 2g of salt a day – in people with either high or normal blood pressure. (Current intake in the UK is 8.6g salt per day).

Professor Graham MacGregor of the Wolfson Institute and Chairman of CASH/WASH and one of the authors of The Lancet commentary said: “Contrary to the claims by Taylor and colleagues and many press headlines, these new results, along with all the other evidence, clearly demonstrate that a reduction in the whole of the UK population and worldwide, is immensely important.”

The UK is currently leading the world in salt reduction, which is already saving 6,000 lives a year and many more lives will be saved if the programme continues. The UK’s approach of getting the food industry to slowly reduce the excessive amounts of salt they put into foods is now being copied by many countries around the world.

This new analysis of the same data that was published in the Cochrane Review clearly strengthens the already overwhelming evidence that salt is the major factor that puts up our blood pressure, and blood pressure is the single biggest cause of strokes, heart attacks and heart failure: the commonest causes of death and a major cause of disability in the UK and worldwide.

Professor Bruce Neal, Chair of the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health said: 'This recent headline grabbing through the selective analysis and mis-reporting of the salt story is fundamentally irresponsible. If you look at the totality of the evidence it’s absolutely clear – we are eating vastly more salt than we need and it is causing an enormous burden of disease, we just need to get on and make salt reduction happen.'

Professor Francesco Cappuccio, head of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Nutrition at the University of Warwick said: "The benefits of salt reduction are clear and consistent. The findings from the Cochrane review do not indicate that salt reduction does not reduce hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Indeed, a correct reanalysis confirms the benefits shown by previous studies. Therefore, the publication does not change the priorities outlined in England and Wales by NICE and worldwide for a population reduction in salt intake to prevent heart attacks and strokes".

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