Writing online in the British Medical Journal ahead of a UN conference, BPA supporter Professor Francesco Cappuccio said high blood pressure was the dominant cause of death and disability worldwide and highlighted the need for a global reduction in salt consumption.
With three-quarters of the salt we consume coming from processed food, Professor Cappuccio and his team from the University of Warwick also state the huge responsibility of food manufacturers to limit the amounts they put into their products.
Not only would a reduction in the average daily consumption save lives, it would also save the NHS millions in drug and surgical interventions.
“Evidence from a very wide variety of studies shows a consistent direct relation between salt intake and blood pressure.
“The blood pressure lowering effect of reducing salt intake is effective in men and women, in all ethnic groups, and all ages.”
The paper goes on to describe a four point plan to reduce salt intake that would need to involve:
- Communication—establishing and evaluating public awareness campaigns
- Reformulation—setting progressive salt targets for reformulating existing processed food and engaging with the food industry in setting standards for new foods
- Monitoring—surveying population salt intake, progress of reformulation, and effectiveness of communication
- Regulation—engagement with industry, including regulation, to create a level playing field so as not to disadvantage more enlightened and progressive companies
A reduction of 3 g per day in salt intake would result in a blood pressure fall of at least 2.5/1.4 mm Hg. This would reduce strokes by about 12-14% and coronary heart disease by 9-10%, equivalent to approximately 6,500-8,000 deaths from stroke and 7,500-12, 000 deaths from coronary heart disease per year.
Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of both the BPA and campaign group Consensus Action on Salt and Health, welcomed the authors' 'clear and practical approach' to salt reduction and urged countries around the world to take action.
“The benefits from salt reduction are enormous; every 1g of salt removed from the UK diet is predicted to prevent 6,000 deaths and a further 6,000 non-fatal strokes and heart attacks.”