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Put down the salt shaker, for the good of us all

January 21, 2010 |  9:00 am

Salt "Cut back on the salt. Cut back on the salt." The refrain is so familiar, it's become part of the general health-advice background noise that most of us simply tune out. But it's good advice. A new study shows just how good.

Researchers at UC San Francisco took a look at what could happen if we all reduced our sodium intake. We'll use their words:

"Reducing dietary salt by 3 g per day is projected to reduce the annual number of new cases of CHD [coronary heart disease] by 60,000 to 120,000, stroke by 32,000 to 66,000, and myocardial infarction by 54,000 to 99,000 and to reduce the annual number of deaths from any cause by 44,000 to 92,000. All segments of the population would benefit, with blacks benefiting proportionately more, women benefiting particularly from stroke reduction, older adults from reductions in CHD events, and younger adults from lower mortality rates. The cardiovascular benefits of reduced salt intake are on par with the benefits of population-wide reductions in tobacco use, obesity, and cholesterol levels."

Obviously we've been giving pepper short shrift when it comes to improving food flavor.  

Here's the full study, published in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

And here's a related editorial. Its authors aren't sure a wholesale reduction in salt is likely, but they'd sure like us to try.

Their conclusion: "As we deliberate health care reform, let us not neglect this inexpensive, yet highly effective public health intervention for the prevention of disease." 

Are you in? Here are tips from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute on how to reduce salt and sodium in your diet. (There's a quiz!) Plus, advice from WebMD on how to eat less sodium when eating out. (Many restaurants rely heavily -- extremely heavily -- on salt.)

-- Tami Dennis

 

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