If popping a salt and pepper shaker on the table is part of your evening dinnertime routine, we recommend that you consider this study.
- A five-year study found that salt substitutes reduce the incidence of heart attacks, strokes, and mortality.
- The survey tracked 21,000 people from 600 rural areas in China.
- Researchers say salt consumption is a “continuing problem”
In one of the largest dietary intervention studies ever conducted, simply switching from regular table salt to a “salt alternative” with reduced sodium and potassium added significantly increased the incidence of stroke, heart attack, and death. It has dropped to.
The study, led by researchers at the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, New England Journal of Medicine..
“I think this study has something for everyone, which literally means everyone in the world,” Bruce Neil, secretary-general and research co-author of the George Institute, told ABCRN. Told. Health report..
“Most people in the world eat salt, and most people in the world eat more salt than they need.
So what’s the problem with salt?
The recommended amount of salt for adults is about 1 teaspoon daily. This is equivalent to 2,000 milligrams of sodium.
High salt intake can lead to elevated blood pressure, kidney damage, stroke and heart attack.
It may even increase the risk of autoimmune diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis by increasing tissue damage from oxidative stress and inflammation.
Tom Marwick, director of the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, says that overdose of salt is “undoubtedly” associated with cardiovascular disease.
“We know that salt is the main cause of illness,” he said.
“Reducing local salt intake has been a continuous problem for decades.”
The shoulder area of our salt intake is what Professor Neil calls “arbitrary salt.” This is the salt that is added as a seasoning when cooking, eating, or storing food.
The alternative salt he and his colleagues developed consisted of 75% sodium chloride (ie 75% normal salt) and 25% potassium chloride.
“Therefore, I chose the 25/75 mix, which is a particular combination, because I knew it had the effect of lowering blood pressure, but I also knew that it tasted very similar to regular salt. rice field.”
What happened when the salt was replaced
Between April 2014 and January 2015, 21,000 adults from 600 rural areas in five states across China were recruited for the survey.
All participants had a history of stroke or had poor blood pressure control.
“We went to the Chinese countryside because it’s relatively easy to replace salt with a Chinese countryside diet,” said Professor Neil.
“We gave half of the people a salt substitute [and] Others continued to use 100% sodium chloride, so it was just regular salt. “
Research recruit It lasted for 5 years.
Strokes, heart attacks, and deaths in each of the two groups were recorded and compared.
“We wanted to answer the question only once. [table] Salt eaten by people, can we reduce clinical events? “Professor Neil said.
For those using alternative salts, researchers found a 14% reduction in the risk of stroke. The total number of cardiovascular events, including stroke and heart attack, was reduced by 13%. And 12 percent premature death.
The salt replacement group also had lower blood pressure than the table salt group. Professor Neil added.
“It’s not far from what you get with medicine, and its effect [on reducing cardiovascular events and death] Probably not far from what you get with the drug. “
Professor Murwick said the study was a “very important outcome” but was conducted among high-risk groups.
“Stroke is a particular problem in China, but nevertheless [the researchers] It showed a profit. “
“The relative risk reduction for stroke was 14% and the absolute reduction was 5/1000. That’s not nothing, but it’s not that big.
Are salt substitutes safe?
Due to the use of potassium, alternative salts may not be suitable for everyone.
Professor Neil said high levels of potassium in the blood, known as hyperkalemia, can predispose to cardiac arrhythmias and sudden death, especially in people with chronic kidney disease.
As a result, people with severe kidney disease were excluded from the study, as were people already taking drugs that raised potassium.
“There was no evidence of an increased risk of events caused by hyperkalemia, nor was there any evidence of an increased risk of sudden death,” Neil said.
The salt alternative is a “quite cheap” change, but still more expensive than salt. In China it is about $ 2.20 per kilogram, compared to $ 1.48 per kilogram in China.
Professor Neil said he was concerned that this price difference would delay people’s use of salt substitutes.
“To be profitable, I think we need to consider subsidizing the cost of salt substitutes to the cost of normal salt in a low-income environment,” he said.
“Although salt substitution is an important step, it is not the only solution to the region-wide problem with salt,” said Professor Murwick.
“We can see changes in food intake, not just alternatives,” he said.
Policy changes within the food environment are also needed.
“Sure, trying to convince the food industry to reduce sodium and retain more potassium normally found in products before they are processed into final foods is definitely what we want to do,” Neil said. The professor said.
“The next decade’s job is to find a way to do this.”
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