Millions of deaths indicate we're all eating too much salt

Illustration for article titled Millions of deaths indicate we're all eating too much salt

Some worrisome stats for your morning: new research concludes that excess salt consumption has had a hand in over two million heart-related deaths worldwide in 2010, 40% of which were premature.


In a study recounted at yesterday's American Heart Association meeting in New Orleans, researchers examined 247 surveys of adults participating in the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Survey, an international collaboration between researchers from 50 countries worldwide. Time has a tidy summary of the investigation's scope and methods:

[Study participants] reported on their sodium intake from 1990 to 2010 in food questionnaires. Overall, adults around the world ate an average of 4,000 mg of sodium a day, either from prepared foods or from table salt, soy sauce or additional salt sprinkled into meals while cooking. That’s twice the amount recommended by the World Health Organization (2,000 mg per day) and nearly three times the amount the AHA says is healthy (1,500 mg per day).

And salt's impact on global health, researchers report, has been substantial. In a second study, a meta-analysis of 107 randomized controlled trials helped illustrate how excess sodium consumption is affecting people's risk of cardiovascular disease around the world. Some highlights from the investigation:

  • Among the 30 largest countries, the highest death rates due to excess salt consumption per million adults were Ukraine (2,109); Russian (1,803); and Egypt (836).
  • The United States ranked 19th out of the 30 largest countries, with 429 salt-related deaths per million adults (which translates to 1 in 10 heart-related deaths in the U.S., according to the study authors).
  • Among all countries surveyed (187 in total), those with the lowest salt-related death rates per million adults were Qatar (73); Kenya (78); and United Arab Emirates (134).
  • 84% of deaths occurred in low and middle-income countries
  • Kenya was reportedly the only country surveyed to adhere to the AHA's recommended 1,500 mg/day limit.
  • The highest proportion of cardiovascular disease related deaths tied to salt-laden diets were in the Philippines, Myanman and China.

“National and global public-health measures, such as comprehensive sodium reduction programs, could potentially save millions of lives,” said epidemiologist Dariush Mozaffarian in a statement. (Mozaffarian is one of the study’s lead researchers, and associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.)

We're really love to see a comparison between this study's results and those of this investigation on fast-food salt content by country. Good money says you'd see some interesting overlap.


Tons more coverage on these studies around the internet today, including over at Time, Bloomberg and US News, but the most lucid and comprehensive that we've happened upon thus far comes from Medpage Today – we recommend heading there fore more details.


Dr Emilio Lizardo

This is true, but every dietitian I have ever talked to has told me that 2 grams of sodium a day is an unrealistic goal for the great majority of people. Especially the poor who have far more to worry about in their diet, like actually getting enough food. If you eat just about any convenience food or cheap, fast food then you blow by 2 grams in a few bites. The only way to do it is to make sure everything is fresh and even then you have to watch closely. You get some sodium in all food and 2 grams is a teaspoon of table salt. That's for all day. And don't even think of having a slice of cheese on your ham sandwich for lunch. In fact, leave off the ham. And the bread. It is almost impossible. A large portion of the industrialized world simply can not comply with a 2 gram sodium diet whether they want to or not.

(cue 20 people telling me that they can and 20 repsonses from me explaining that they, as individuals, do not constitute "A large portion of the civilized world.")